Emirati Mohamed Hasan was 18 and at the peak of his football career in Dubai when he started feeling severe discomfort in his stomach. He had to rush to the washroom in the middle of a game as he began experiencing uncontrolled diarrhoea. He lost his football contract because of the issue.
“When I joined work, I had to leave meetings in between and rush to the bathroom. This pain began affecting my quality of life, and I was told I was suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD),” he said.
“(Because of IBD) I couldn’t hang around with friends and I had to roam around with an extra set of clothes,” said Hasan, who also began to experience episodes of uncontrollable pain due to severe inflammation in his intestines. He had to be rushed to the hospital at least once every month.
Hasan is not the only one. IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, affects several people across Africa and the Middle East.
And on Wednesday, World IBD Day, Hasan and other UAE patients suffering from the condition, as well as health experts, virtually came together to formally launch the UAE IBD Society. The group, set up under the supervision of the Ministry of Community Development, aims to help improve the lives of people living with IBD.
About 84 per cent of adults living with ulcerative colitis agree that the condition is mentally exhausting, while 30 per cent wish their doctors better understood how the condition affects their mental health.
Learning about the disease from the experts and hearing other people’s stories have helped Hasan overcome IBD. “Once I understood my disease, I was able to adapt better and took the right treatment and this helped me get back to my normal life,” he said.
Another IBD patient Sarah Sajwani said she was misdiagnosed for 14 years and had multiple endoscopies, not knowing what was happening to her stomach. “I couldn’t walk, eat and I had lost more than 8kg in less than month. Finally, my life changed when we found out the exact issue and I learnt how to handle it. It is important to know about IBD, talk about it and get the correct diagnosis in order to beat it and this is what UAE IBD society is all about.”
While it is not known exactly how many people in the UAE suffer from IBD, it is thought to be between two and four per cent of the population, with the onset occurring most commonly in adolescents and young adults aged 20-30.
The IBD society was founded by Dr Maryam Al Khatry, gastroenterologist and head of department at IBHO Hospital and former president of the Emirates Gastroenterology and Hepatology Society, under the patronage of Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan bin Hamdan Al Nahyan.
“The society will offer an inclusive programme aimed at improving the quality of life for patients. Connecting people is crucial, and efforts will be aimed at empowering patients to share experiences and support one another so they don’t feel alone,” Dr Khatry said.
What is IBD?
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to conditions that cause chronic inflammation of the digestive system. This inflammation is triggered by an abnormal response of the body’s immune system.
>> Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are two of the most common forms of IBD.
>Pain in the abdomen
>Loss of appetite
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