Jeremy Laurance: Fletcher's condition strikes one in 10,000 people each year
Jeremy Laurance is a writer on health issues. He is former health editor of The Independent and the i and has covered the specialism for more than 20 years. He thinks the harm medicine does is under-appreciated, the harm it prevents over-rated, and that cycling works better than most drugs. He was named Specialist Journalist of the Year in the 2011 British Press Awards.
Wednesday 14 December 2011
Darren Fletcher is unlucky – about one in 10,000 people develop ulcerative colitis each year. It is a chronic condition causing inflammation of the bowel with symptoms, typically, of abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea and a frequent need to go to the toilet.
In many cases the symptoms are mild and do not interfere with normal life. But the stress of playing Premier League football will not have helped. The condition is unpredictable and symptoms may flare up and then disappear for months or years.
It tends to run in families with about one in six cases having a relative with the condition. Diet is an important trigger and sufferers have to learn which foods make their symptoms worse. Fatty foods and carbohydrates, the mainstay of the western diet, tend to aggravate the condition. The incidence is lower among Asians who eat more pulses and vegetables.
Eating little and often is the best defence – five or six small meals are better than three large ones. Sufferers should drink plenty to avoid becoming dehydrated as a result of the diarrhoea. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga may also help.
If modifying the diet does not control the condition, treatment with drugs is the best option, including steroids. In more severe cases immunosuppressants may be used – one theory about the condition is that the gut reacts to a viral infection by becoming inflamed and then fails to switch off the immune response when the threat recedes.
In the worst cases surgery may be required to remove a part of the bowel. Fans must hope Fletcher's absence from the field will be enough to return him to health.
Latest in Sport
Perth midfielder Ruben Zadkovich sent off 17 seconds after coming on against Wellington
F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2014 live: Lewis Hamilton heads towards second championship as Nico Rosberg has major engine troubles
England vs Samoa match report: England finally end losing streak as Jonny May stars in win ahead of Wallabies showdown
WWE Survivor Series 2014: What time does the event start? And full card
Arsenal vs Manchester United report: Wayne Rooney and a Kieran Gibbs own goal make Gunners rue missed chances
- 2 Tower Bridge glass walkway 'smashed' by night-time visitor dropping bottle of beer
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Rochester aftermath: Sacking of Emily Thornberry will make work of Labour MPs '10 times harder'
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services