DALLAS - More than one million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and 30,000 thousand more are diagnosed annually.
Yet, it's unlikely you'll hear many of those diagnosed talking about what some consider an embarrassing condition.
Now, there is new help for people with IBD.
Inflammatory bowel disease affects people mostly between the ages of 15 to 35. For unknown reasons, it has been on the rise. UT Southwestern is hoping to figure out why with a one-of-a-kind program in Texas.
Keeping up with a busy toddler is no problem since medication controls the extreme abdominal cramps associated with Andrea Reeves' Crohn's disease.
"Associated with the pain, there was on and off again diarrhea, constipation as well," Reeves said. "So, I would be bloated for a day, then you couldn't even touch my stomach area without bringing me to tears."
It's an uncomfortable condition to discuss, Reeves admitted. But Crohn's and colitis, the two most common inflammatory bowel diseases, affect an estimated 10,000 North Texans.
Symptoms include abdominal cramps and pain, bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss
Because the number of patients is growing for unknown reasons, UT Southwestern has created a comprehensive Crohn's and colitis program that encompasses everything from doctors, dieticians and research.
"If it is not treated, patients will undergo surgery, have complications, perforations.," said Dr. Prabhakar Swaroop, a gastroenterologist. "And, if we intervene early, we can avoid a whole lot of grief to these patients."
Swaroop said the ultimate goal is finding a cause and a cure, which could one day help Reeves spend even more quality time pain-free with her little boy.
Doctors suspect Crohn's and colitis might be more common, but many people are embarrassed to discuss the symptoms with their doctor. For women, IBD dramatically increases the risk of miscarriage, so early treatment could be life-saving.