Crohn`s and Colitis Awareness Week House Bill 260

Chair Gonzales, Vice Chair Huffman, and Ranking Member Antonio, and members of the House
Health and Aging Committee, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to give sponsor
testimony on House Bill 260. This bill seeks to create Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness week
during the first week of December to raise awareness for these diseases.
Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are two different types of Inflammatory Bowel Disease
(IBD) that are currently on the rise today. Crohn’s and Colitis both effect the gastrointestinal
(GI) tract by causing inflammation, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and
intestinal bleeding to name a few symptoms. Approximately 1.6 million Americans have some
form of IBD, roughly 700,000 have Colitis, and roughly 700,000 have Crohn’s. There are as
many as 70,000 new cases in the United States each year. Both diseases effect men and women
Both diseases have undetermined causes. While this may be the case, it is widely accepted that
there are autoimmune and genetic components to them. Both diseases have a tendency to run in
families; however it is not uncommon for one family member to have one disease while another
family member has the other. It is also possible to have both diseases as they are similar but
affect the GI tract differently. Crohn’s and Colitis is typically diagnosed between the ages of 1535, while diagnosis later in life is generally due to going undiagnosed or being misdiagnosed. In
recent years, there have been a growing number of children diagnosed with an estimated 80,000
children living with one of these diseases. Crohn’s and Colitis is most prevalent in those from
developed countries as well as those with Eastern European decent. However, there is an
increasing trend towards any and all ethnicities being affected.
Both diseases are triggered by “infections” assumed in the GI tract with the inability to turn off
the autoimmune response. Over time, the immune system continuously attacks the tissue around
the “infection” which causes chronic inflammation, ulceration, and thickening of the intestinal
wall leading to and causing symptoms. With Crohn’s Disease, the entirety of the GI tract has the
potential to be effected by the disease, including all layers of the differing tissues. Crohn’s
disease is usually found in patches. Colitis on the other hand only affects the innermost lining of
the colon however, the entire colon is affected.
Treatment options for those affected are only targeted to treat their symptoms. The most
common types of treatments are: corticosteroids, immunomodulators, antibiotics, biologic
therapies and surgery. Surgery often occurs for about 70% of those affected with the possibility
of additional surgeries reoccurring for about 30%. It is important to note that there is no cure as
well as no medication specifically targeted towards these diseases. Often times the medications
used to treat these diseases is designed for other medical conditions. Often time’s patients take
anti-inflammatory medications designed for rheumatoid arthritis, or immunomodulators designed
as chemotherapies for cancer patients.
My aide, Kelsey, is one of the many individuals that suffer from Crohn’s disease. She was
diagnosed at the age of 23, and has been on the Crohn’s disease rollercoaster for the past three
years. She has had several hospital visits due to abscesses found near the affected area of her GI
tract. These visits usually resulted in intense rounds of antibiotics and a corticosteroid. A little
over a year after she was diagnosed, she had to under go emergency surgery to remove about a
foot of her intestine, which resulted in a temporary ileostomy bag which was reversed three
months later. She has been on two different types of biologics, Remicaid and Humira, as well as
an immunodialator. Shorty before her surgery, she had to stop Remicaid treatments because they
were not effective, which is consistent of the trial and error that is common due to the nature of
the disease. She recently had a reduction in medication and now only takes Humira. Other
aspects of these diseases that she has experienced range from intense weight gain and weight
loss, dietary restrictions to help manage the disease, to fatigue and constant stomach pains.
Crohn’s and Colitis affect many more young people than are assumed. This is not the older
person’s disease that it is often labeled as. We need to remove this stigma so that we can raise
awareness for what the disease really is as it is much more than a bowel disease. This is a chronic
disease that a portion of our population has to live with and fight everyday, but it goes under the
radar due to it being described as an “invisible illness.” That does not make people lazy, or
antisocial or any of the other labels that they get. It makes them fighters for their health so they
can go on and do every day things when they can.
Thank you for allowing me to give sponsor testimony on House Bill 260. I would be happy to
answer any questions you may have at this time.