4 Actions to Take After a Crohn's Diagnosis

It's estimated that as many as 1.4 million Americans suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), with that number split between the two most common IBDs, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Although Crohn's disease mainly affects adolescents and young adults, it can also occur in people over age 70. The hallmark signs of Crohn's disease include persistent diarrhea, crampy stomach pain, fever, and occasional rectal bleeding. Loss of appetite and fatigue are also common symptoms.

While receiving a diagnosis of Crohn's disease can be scary and overwhelming, there are steps you can take to help cope with this chronic condition and regain a sense of control.

Learn everything you can about your disease. Seeking the advice of a gastroenterologist, a specialist in diseases of the digestive tract, can help you understand the course of your disease, find the appropriate treatments, and learn about lifestyle changes you may need to make to manage your symptoms. To find a gastroenterologist with extensive experience in treating Crohn's disease, start by asking your primary care physician for a recommendation. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA.org) also has a Find a Physician resource on its website.

Seek the emotional support of family and friends. Coping with a chronic medical condition can be difficult. A disease like Crohn's can impact your quality of life and your sense of self-esteem. Family members and friends can be good sources of emotional support and understanding. It may also be helpful to seek the advice of a therapist who has experience in treating people with chronic illnesses like Crohn's disease. Your gastroenterologist may also be able to recommend a local support group you could get involved with.

Listen to your body. Although the exact causes of Crohn's disease are unknown, there are certain factors, including the foods you eat, that may exacerbate symptoms. To learn what may be aggravating your symptoms, keep a daily journal of your food intake and activities and when and what type of symptoms you experience. Eliminating possible culprits may help alleviate symptoms and reduce flare-ups.

Plan ahead. Getting a Crohn's diagnosis doesn't mean that you have to stop engaging in your favorite pastimes or activities. You just may have to do some extra planning to give yourself a sense of security when you're away from home. For example, learn the location of restrooms in public areas, including restaurants, shopping malls and movie theaters. Packing a travel kit that includes some basics like a set of underwear and wipes can help ease your mind.