Understanding Crohn's Disease & Ulcerative Colitis

by Jon Zonderman & Ronald S. Vender, M.D.

Medical writer Jon Zonderman vividly recalls the day he broached the subject of co-writing a book with his doctor. Zonderman was in pain.

"Since the previous February I had been fighting the worst flare-up of Crohn disease I had ever experienced," Zonderman writes in his book, Understanding Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, published by the University Press of Mississippi.

In ten months, he was hospitalized twice. He endured barium X-ray studies, a CAT scan, an ultrasound, weight loss, fatigue, and weeks of liquid diets and canned supplements. "My family suffered with me," he writes.

When his doctor, Ronald S. Vender, M.D., recommended surgery to clear an obstruction, Zonderman asked the doctor to pool all his research so that Zonderman could write "Understanding Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis" while recovering.

"Today, I am feeling much better," Zonderman says. "This project has been, to some degree, an exercise in healing as well as one in better understanding."

Dr. Vender delighted in working on a book with one of his most insightful patients. "Jon has always had interesting and perceptive observations to make about his illness and its treatment, and we shared the philosophy that 'patients should be patients as little as possible."

Written from a patient's perspective, their book provides timely information about how to obtain and maintain the highest quality of life possible while living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis--together known as inflammatory bowel disease--are chronic illnesses of unknown origin. The inflammation within the intestinal tract (within the colon in ulcerative colitis, and anywhere from the mouth to the anus in Crohn disease) leads to some or all of the following clinical symptoms--diarrhea (with or without blood), abdominal pain, fever, and fatigue.

The disease is characterized by periods of flare-up and remission. Some individuals, especially those who have ulcerative colitis, may have one acute episode in their lifetime. But most IBD sufferers have recurrent periods of illness. Even in the absence of clinical symptoms, there is usually radiological and laboratory evidence of the disease.

Current medical treatments reduce symptoms, but do not cure either disease. Because of the unpredictable nature of the disease process, quality of life is severely impaired, especially for the sickest individuals. Besides providing basic information, the book describes various medical, surgical, nutritional, and even spiritual treatments. Its aim is to help those who are afflicted with IBD, as well as their families, to improve and maintain the highest possible quality of life.

© Jon Zonderman & Ronald S. Vender, published by arrangement with University of Mississippi Press. All Rights reserved.


Jon Zonderman is a medical writer and freelance journalist and author of "Beyond the Crime Lab", as well as a number of books for children and young adults. Ronald S. Vender, M.D. is the chief of gastroenterology at the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven, Connecticut and Clinical Associate Professor of Gastroenterology at the Yale University School of Medicine.