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University College Cork, home of APC Microbiome Ireland, is turning purple this week to raise awareness of the issues faced by over 5 million people worldwide who live with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). And APC IBD researchers are distributing IBD information cards around campus with purple ribbons. APC social media will be used to promote awareness of the #InMyShoes mobile phone app which allows users to immerse themselves in the challenges faced over 24 hours by people living with IBD, and to familiarise people with the ISCC “No Waiting Card” which aims to improve rapid access to toilet facilities, and we will also profile APC IBD researchers.

APC Microbiome Ireland aims to improve patient health by investigating the causes of IBD and the factors that affect disease severity, as well as developing new therapies.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is the umbrella term for Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. More than 40,000 people are living with IBD in Ireland. Around the world, someone is diagnosed with IBD every 30 seconds and one in four newly diagnosed patients are aged under 16 years. IBD is not be confused with the more common IBS – irritable bowel syndrome.

IBD is an invisible, life changing, chronic condition that is generally managed with medication, but there are different degrees of severity of Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Ulcerative Colitis affects only the large bowel, while Crohn’s Disease affects anywhere from the mouth to the anus which includes the digestive tract, small bowel and large bowel. IBD symptoms include diarrhoea, severe abdominal pain, fatigue, rectal bleeding and weight loss. Some patients live with stoma bag following surgery (where part of the bowel is brought through the abdomen and stool is passed through it). At its most severe, IBD is life changing and affects all aspects of a person’s life.

Prof Fergus Shanahan, former APC Director and a gastroenterologist who has cared for IBD patients for 30 years, particularly encourages patients to get involved in their own care and to seek professional help to process the emotional and psychological aspects of an IBD diagnosis. He has recently written a new book for patients and their supporters which is full of useful information about diagnosis, treatment options and advice to stay healthy. The book “Inflammatory Bowel Disease – fast facts for patients and their supporters” is published by Karger and is now available to purchase online.

So how can you help?

  • Follow the conversation on social media using the hashtags #UCCGoesPurple #IBDVisible #InMyShoes
  • Download the #InMyShoes mobile phone App and experience a day in the life of person living with such a life-changing illness
  • Wear a purple ribbon and share on social media
  • Contact a patient organisation and volunteer or make a donation e.g. www.iscc.ie
  • Volunteer for a research study https://apc.ucc.ie/education-outreach/medicalpatient/