Abdominal pain, exhaustion and bleeding: these are the most common ailments among those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, a condition that affects 250,000 Italians, especially young people, so much so that one diagnosis out of 4 concerns a child. And for 7 out of 10 patients who suffer from it, it becomes difficult to attend school or work. This is the picture that emerges from the survey ‘Better: Welfare, Occupational, Legal and Social Needs’ for the treatment of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, presented by Amici Italia to the Ministry of Health.
“Diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis present with periods of exacerbation alternating with phases of remission and of which the cause is unknown – explains Valentina Ferracuti, president of Amici Italia -. The age at which they most frequently arise ranges from 20 to 40 years, but the onset can occur at any age, even in children of one or two years “. “The incidence of these pathologies is clearly increasing – continues Claudio Romano, president of the Italian Society of Pediatric Gastroenterology -. From a geographical point of view, industrialized countries are more affected”.
The hypothesis, adds Flavio Caprioli, secretary of the Italian Group for the Study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, “is that at the origin of the disease there is an abnormal immunological reaction by the intestine against antigens. This can happen for a ‘altered interaction between unidentified genetic and environmental factors’.
The survey, presented to the Ministry of Health, involved 1,350 patients. It emerged, explains Salvo Leone, director of Amici Italia, “that for almost 72% the disease affects the ability to work and 80% of those who attend school or university are forced to be absent several times”. Furthermore, almost 30% find it difficult to be visited when they have an emergency. 17% have difficulty scheduling a follow-up due to waiting times. “Among the difficulties there is also that of diagnosis and access to therapies. For this reason, it is – he concludes – important to contact experts from centers of excellence”.
Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said, speaking at the conference, chronic intestinal diseases “must be followed carefully because there is an increase in the age group between 20 and 40, therefore among young people and people working age”. On this complex disease, he added, there was a dedicated table set up in the ministry by the then undersecretary Pierpaolo Sileri, and “we are now working on its reactivation to bring an adequate solution to all patients”.
For those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease as well as for all chronically ill patients in general, Schillaci underlined, “with the simplification decree we have made life a little easier, making the dematerialized prescription repeatable and valid for up to 12 months for patients chronic: in doing so we have also slightly reduced the bureaucratic burden of general practitioners”. However, it is also important to offer all patients the best possible therapeutic innovations. On this front, concluded the minister, “we are evaluating new treatment possibilities for these diseases and we are discussing them with the subcommittees of the Lea, which will have to update the Essential Levels of Assistance”.
For these diseases, underlined Pierpaolo Sileri, head of the Chronic Intestinal Inflammatory Diseases Unit of the Irccs San Raffaele Hospital in Milan, “there is no prevention, but an early recognition of the symptoms and treatments in specialist centers allow them to be blocked and kept under control”. Hence the importance of the World Day to promote “greater knowledge towards the general population and health personnel”.