Winning the Battle with Crohn's Disease

"It's like being on a see-saw," Dawn Monk says of her 27-year odyssey with Crohn's disease. "When it's under control, I feel great; when I have a flare, I have a lot of joint pain, abdominal discomfort and dehydration. My weight goes up and down."

Crohn's is one of a group of disorders collectively referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and it causes painful inflammation of the digestive tract. Although it may occur at any age, Crohn's most often appears in both men and women between the ages of 15 and 30, and tends to run in families.

Dawn was diagnosed with Crohn's in 1987, has been hospitalized numerous times and undergone three surgical procedures as a result of the condition's debilitating symptoms.

"The inflammation caused by Crohn's disease often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissue," explains gastroenterologist Robert Kaiser, M.D. "Like ulcerative colitis, another common IBD, Crohn's disease can be both painful and debilitating, leading to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea and even malnutrition."

If not treated, Crohn's can lead to life-threatening complications.

While there's no known cure, therapies can greatly reduce the signs and symptoms and put the condition in long-term remission.

Though she's had her share of ups and downs, the Harvey woman is in remission thanks to the drug Remicade, a biologic medication that works to block a protein in the body that leads to inflammation and the painful symptoms of Crohn's.

Dawn visits the Ingalls Outpatient Infusion Center in Harvey every eight weeks for Remicade treatment.

"The Infusion Center is just five minutes from my home, so it's very convenient for me," she adds. "The infusion team is excellent; the nurses answer all my questions, and the Remicade has helped tremendously."

A registered nurse, Dawn plans to pursue a B.S.N. degree and hopes to work with Crohn's disease patients when she finishes. "It isn't always easy to live with Crohn's disease, but I've got a very supportive family and friends, and I attend church, which helps a lot too," she added.

Symptoms of Crohn's Disease

Signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease can range from mild to severe, and may develop gradually or come on suddenly, without warning. A person may also have periods of time when they have no signs or symptoms (remission).

When the disease is active, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Blood in the stool
  • Ulcers
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss

See your doctor if you have persistent changes in your bowel habits or if you have any of the signs and symptoms of Crohn's disease.

For more information or a referral to a gastroenterologist, call Ingalls Care Connection at 708.915.CARE (2273).

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