World IBD Day

Today is World IBD Day and I wanted to share a few things (treatments, symptoms ect) about living with IBD that I have personally experienced.

Symptoms of IBD that I have had include stomach cramps, fatigue, diarrhoea, constipation, weight loss, partial blockages of the small bowel, dehydration, blood in my stool and muscular cramps in the abdomen. I haven’t had all these symptoms at once (thankfully) but I have experienced them all in some capacity and in various combinations.

Treatments I have tried for my IBD include a lot of medications as well as surgery. I have been on anti inflammatory (mesalazine), steroids (prednisolone), immuno-suppressants (azathioprine, mercaptopurine & infliximab), anti-ulcer (omeprazole), antibiotics (co-trimoxazol), meds for bile salt malabsorbtion (colesevelam), as well as vitamin/mineral supplements (folic acid, adcal-d3 & colecalciferol). I have also been on fortisip nutrient drinks and (as of this week) modulen which is a complete nutritional replacement drink.

Other treatments (for lack of a better term) would be surgery. I had my colon removed about two years ago and a temporary end ileostomy (stoma) placed. Although many would assume this has “cured” me of my Ulcerative Colitis, removal of the affected organ sadly does not cure an auto-immune disease.

Side effects of these many treatments are numerous. From the medication alone I suffered with bloating, insomnia, loss/increase of appetite and weight gain/loss. The surgeries came with there own set of side effects which included muscle spasms in my rectum and abdomen, partial blockages of my small bowel, strictures (narrowing of the gut) and ulcers from infection. I also suffered with a case of ileus which is when the muscles that move food through the gut slow down, causing the bowel to effectively stop working for a time. This happened after my second surgery to form my j-pouch and took about three-four weeks to heal. Treatments for it included an NG-tube (a thin tube that goes in through the nose and down the oesophagus into the stomach to extract food and other waste that can’t move into the small intestine), and TPN (Total Parenteral Nutrition – another form of liquid nutrition that is fed via a PICC line (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) that goes in through a main line in the upper arm and ends somewhere near the heart).

I think out of all the things I listed here, ileus was the worst. It came on suddenly after surgery and meant I wasn’t allowed food for almost a month. It started with vomiting and my stoma stopped working (meaning nothing was passing through my gut). This is when they inserted the NG tube. They had to replace it once but it stayed in for about two weeks to clear out my stomach. In the meantime, they inserted the PICC line (which can be left for several weeks or even months) and started me on TPN. Eventually, when the NG tube wasn’t bringing anything else up, they removed it and after a couple of days, allowed me to try soup. When that stayed down, I was allowed to try soft foods and, eventually, I was back on normal diet and discharged from hospital after almost four weeks. This is the longest I’ve had to stay in hospital and I hope to never experience it again.

So, there you go. I know it’s a long post but I thought it would be worth sharing as people so often underestimate the impact of IBD on a patients life.

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