A new patient support group will provide the "missing link" of care for more than 300 local patients suffering from two inflammatory bowel conditions.
The Rotorua support group for Crohn's and Colitis New Zealand is in the process of being set up, with awareness of the conditions being highlighted this week with international experts in town for the New Zealand Society of Gastroenterologists' annual scientific meeting, which starts today.
Rotorua gastroenterologist Richard Newbury, who set up the group with colleague Charlie Richardson, said the support group was important for those who were diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's in the Lakes region.
"It's the element we have been missing."
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He said when people were diagnosed with one of the conditions they could be given information which could seem "incredibly scary". They would benefit from talking to people who had experience.
"It can be super scary when you are given this label or diagnosis."
Mr Newbury said the two chronic conditions could be so debilitating they were associated with more sick days off work than any other condition. About 70 per cent of Crohn's patients have at least one surgery in their lifetime.
As part of raising awareness, some of the 300 or so delegates taking part in the conference would be taking part in a 5km fun run tomorrow morning.
Mr Newbury said better understanding of the conditions and timely treatment could minimise complications to keep people well.
The condition typically strikes between the ages of 15 and 35. Symptoms can include abdominal pain, malnutrition, tiredness, loose bowel motions and depression.