Ulcerative colitis can cause pain, fatigue, anemia, and serious bowel symptoms. But with treatment, it doesn't have to consume your life.
"For most of us, we can keep this under control; this is not a diagnosis which you think, 'My life has ended,'" says Cuckoo Choudhary, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine, gastroenterology, and hepatology at Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia.
Here are eight people with ulcerative colitis who achieved fame for their artistic, athletic, business, and political contributions.
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Better known as President Charles Logan on Fox's primetime drama 24 and Agent Virgil Minelli on CBS' The Mentalist, the 63-year-old actor is among the nation's roughly 700,000 ulcerative colitis sufferers. In 2010, he recorded a public service announcement for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America to raise awareness for this inflammatory bowel disease.
"Fortunately I have this disease under control with a combination of diet and diligence, but there are so many Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis patients out there suffering every day," Itzin said in a statement.
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John F. Kennedy
The youngest U.S. president elected to office, Kennedy developed abdominal pain as a young teen. In 1934, he went to the Mayo Clinic, where he was diagnosed with "colitis," or at least what was called colitis at the time.
Decades after the Massachusetts Democrat's assassination, a thorough examination of his medical records revealed he was in far greater pain and taking more medicationsincluding drugs for back painduring his presidency than the public knew about at the time.
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He was the quirky, bearded jazz artist who wooed judges on season 10 of American Idol. Fans worried about the fate of the 20-year-old singer when he failed to appear on a Thursday night elimination show.
"You'll notice that Casey is missing from the group. He is unfortunately sick and in the hospital right now," host Ryan Seacrest announced at the top of the broadcast. Media outlets reported that Abrams received two blood transfusions to treat ulcerative colitis.
Dr. Choudhary says flare-ups can occur with any chronic disease. "Even if you do everything by the book...you might have some flares," she says.
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Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis during her second pregnancy, Emmy-winning actress Brenneman tried to do everything she could to relieve her symptoms. She watched her diet, used various medications, and even tried acupuncture, herbs, and supplements. Nothing seemed to do the trick.
In 2010, she had surgery to remove her colon.
Brenneman, who played the title character in the CBS drama Judging Amy and currently portrays psychiatrist Violet Turner in ABC's Private Practice, says she's healthy now.
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Former Edmonton Oilers forward Pisani (now a Chicago Blackhawks right wing) was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 2005 but fought back to lead his team to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final with an impressive 14 goals.
In 2007, his symptoms returned. He dropped 30 pounds from his 205-pound frame, but he rallied with treatment and was back on the ice by December.
"I'm going to go out and live my life accordingly," he told the Canadian Press. "I'm not going to worry about what could happen again. That's no way to live. I just want to put everything that happened behind me."
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Sir Steve Redgrave
British rower Redgrave was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1992, as well as diabetes in 1997, but that did not thwart his drive for Olympic glory. He took the gold in Sydney in 2000, becoming the only rower in history to win five gold medals in five consecutive Olympic Games, from 1984 to 2000.
Although retired from the sport, the 49-year-old remains active as an author, philanthropist, and motivational speaker.
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Former White House press secretary Snow died at age 53 after a battle with colon cancer.
In a 2006 radio interview with Houston gastroenterologist Joseph S. Galati, MD, Snow, then a Fox News commentator, says, "I had ulcerative colitis for 27 years. It is, at least in my case, probably congenital."
People with ulcerative colitis have a heightened risk for colon cancer. Although Snow had regular colonoscopies, a fast-growing type of cancer ultimately claimed his life.
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Financier Bush maintained a low profile during his father's presidency. But in 1990, the youngest son of Barbara and President George H.W. Bush sacrificed his privacy to become a spokesman for the National Foundation for Ileitis & Colitis (now the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America).
"This organization is the only opportunity where I utilize my father's name to benefit something," he told the Baltimore Sun.
He was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in 1985 at age 28. His condition worsened, leading to surgeries to remove his colon and create an ostomy, an opening in the abdomen to remove body wastes.
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