Every year May 19th is World Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) day, which is a day where people from all over the world affected someway by IBD, come together to share our stories and raise awareness for the disease. This year the theme is “IBD Beyond Borders” which I think is a great theme that not only addresses the fact that IBD can affect any person no matter the gender, age, and ethnicity or class and that IBD can affect an individual beyond the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) as most people automatically assume IBD is just in the small or large intestines, which unfortunately is not correct.
IBD Can Present Symptoms Beyond the Borders of the GI Tract:
While a good portion of disease presentation and inflammation is in the GI tract the disease can go beyond the borders of the bowel and affect the bones/joints causing enteropathic arthritis, can cause inflammation in the eyes known as uveitis, can cause skin inflammation and damage where the most common skin condition is erythema nodosum but not the only one, and can also cause severe fatigue, huge weight fluctuations, anemia and more. IBD can have systemic effects on an individual that also have to be addressed.
Your IBD is Your IBD:
This is important because IBD is different for EVERY patient and can present in many ways, which can make it hard to diagnosis. I have heard stories from patients who never really had any GI symptoms that would indicate IBD but had arthritis and skin problems and come to find out they had IBD. When we realize IBD can present in many different ways this can help patients be diagnosed sooner and prevent further damage. Patients with IBD including myself deal with stigmas associated with the disease because it is seen as mostly a bathroom disease, which yes during disease flares this can include multiple trips to the bathroom and severe GI distress but it is so much more than that.
For those of us with IBD every day is world IBD day but when you have a day dedicated specifically to the disease and raising awareness it starts a conversation that allows us to work on ending stigmas and show the real side of this disease so people can see what we go through and the impact this disease has on our lives. . It is mentally and emotionally draining some days to live with IBD and to be able to bring awareness and openly discuss it on a day like IBD is huge for this community. When this happens it not only helps patients feel better but also helps bring the disease into the public eye, which can help bring in more funding for research into new treatments, and cures. If you are not familiar with IBD ask someone to share a little about their story with you and how the disease has impacted their life. So today no matter what country you live in let’s bring IBD awareness across every border in hopes of making the future and landscape of IBD better.