INFLAMMATORY bowel disease proves that not every disability is visible.

The gastroenterology team at Warrington Hospital hosted a stand in the main entrance last week in a bid to raise awareness of Crohn's and ulcerative colitis ahead of World IBD Day.

Tina Law is the only inflammatory bowel disease nurse specialist at Warrington Hospital and has worked there for two-and-a-half years.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are the two main forms of inflammatory bowel disease, affecting around 2,500 people in Warrington and Halton.

It is largely a hidden disease and one that causes stigma, fear and isolation – it’s thought that many people with the condition go undiagnosed and suffer in silence.

After qualifying as nurse in 1996, Tina became an IBD nurse in 2001 and has almost 20 years experience in the role.

Tina sees people at her morning outpatient nurse-led clinic and in the afternoon, offers advice and guidance about the disease on the phone and email advice line.

She also administers prescriptions and carries out blood monitoring.

Sunday marked World IBD day, and Tina says positive steps are being made to help people with the disease in public places.

She added: "IBD does not just affect the bowel, it can have an enormous impact on the social aspect of people's lives, on personal relationships and employment.

"We help our patients in various ways we are not just looking after the bowel.

"Supermarkets now have signs on the disabled toilet doors telling people that not all disabilities are visible.

"These really help our patients."

There is a range of medication including immunosuppressants and new drugs which help manage symptoms but there is still no cure for inflammatory bowel disease.

Tina said: "If a person suspected they had inflammatory bowel disease they would first go to their GP who would refer them to a gastroenterologist.

"Tests would include a bowel examination, an MR scan and further blood tests.

"Although there is no specific reason why people get the disease, genetic and environmental triggers may set it off.

"This could be stress related or the result of a viral infection.

"Most people get diagnosed when they are a young adult and I think we are getting better at diagnosing and that is why we are getting such an increase of IBD patients.

"I think there is a lot more awareness surrounding the disease now."

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease can include:

  • pain, cramps or swelling in the tummy
  • recurring or bloody diarrhoea
  • weight loss
  • extreme tiredness
  • fever
  • vomiting
  • anaemia.

The symptoms of IBD can come and go.

There may be times when the symptoms are severe (flare-ups), followed by long periods when there are few or no symptoms at all (remission).