IBD and Other Health Conditions
Coping with IBD can bring about a fair amount of challenges. Navigating life with IBD and one or more additional medical conditions can be even more difficult. When an individual has two or more conditions at the same time, the co-occurring conditions are often called comorbidities, or comorbid conditions. In order to get a better understanding of life with IBD, including how common certain comorbidities are, we conducted our 2018 IBD in America survey. Roughly 2,800 individuals with IBD responded to the survey, which included questions about IBD treatment, symptoms, quality of life, other co-occurring conditions, and more. Overall, 91% of respondents reported that they have at least one other comorbid condition alongside their IBD.
Most common comorbidities
Several comorbidities were reported more frequently by survey participants than others. Conditions that were reported by 20-40% of respondents included:
- Anxiety or panic disorders (40% of participants)
- GERD—Gastroesophageal reflux disease (35% of participants)
- IBS—Irritable bowel syndrome (33% of participants)
- Arthritis/osteoarthritis (31% of participants)
- Mood disorders—Including depression (30% of participants)
- Obesity/overweight (29% of participants)
- High blood pressure (26% of participants)
- Migraine (24% of participants)
- Chronic pain (22% of participants)
- High cholesterol (21% of participants)
- Sleep disorders/sleep apnea (20% of participants)
Less common comorbidities
Other, less commonly reported comorbid conditions included the following. These conditions were reported by 10-19% of survey respondents.
- Osteoporosis/osteopenia (19% of participants)
- Neuropathy/nerve issues (17% of participants)
- Asthma (17% of participants)
- Thyroid/glandular disease (14% of participants)
- Fibromyalgia (12% of participants)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (11% of participants)
- Atopic dermatitis/Eczema (10% of participants)
Many other conditions were cited by fewer than 10% of survey respondents, with only 9% of survey respondents reporting that they have no comorbid conditions.
IBD and cancer
Cancer as a comorbid condition to IBD was relatively uncommon. Only 15% of respondents reported being diagnosed with cancer, with the most common cancer reported being skin cancer (9% of participants). Other cancers reported by less than 2% of participants were breast cancer, colorectal cancer, blood cancer (including leukemia), prostate cancer, bladder cancer, and lung cancer. Roughly 85% of participants had never received a cancer diagnosis.
Navigating life with more than one condition
Facing one chronic condition can be challenging, let alone two or more. Some common tips for managing life with multiple comorbid conditions include, but are not limited to, the following.
- Stick to your plan: When you visit your healthcare provider (or multiple healthcare providers), they will help you determine the best plan for battling your conditions. This may include recommending lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise modifications, medications, and more. It’s important to follow these instructions as best as possible, and to check-in with your healthcare provider regularly.
- Speak up: Although it may be scary at times, speaking up during healthcare appointments is critical. Any and all questions you may have about side-effects, treatment options, or just general concerns about your conditions, are valid. If you are having an issue with a particular treatment option or medication, it’s also important to let your provider know this as well. Being honest about any struggles your facing and symptoms that you’d like to alleviate are important in order to create the best treatment plan for you.
- Try to remain positive: Battling a chronic condition can take its toll on mental and emotional health, as well as on physical health. During your battle, you may find that treatment is not going as planned or that you’re not improving as much as you had hoped. Setting realistic goals for treatment and keeping open lines of communication with your provider may help you be prepared for whatever comes next, and keep your mind one step ahead of your body. Finding activities or hobbies that you can participate in and that you enjoy may also help keep your mind positive while your body is fighting its hardest.
- Find a teammate: Sometimes, healthcare appointments, keeping track of medications, and managing symptoms can be too much for one person to handle on their own. Enlisting the help of a close friend, spouse, or family member to attend appointments with you, help keep you organized, or even just to act as a sounding board when you need to vent may help give you the strength you need to keep going.