What is the painful condition that made dancer Amy Dowden miss Strictly?

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Amy Dowden has suffered a flare-up of Crohn's disease, pictured in December 2018. (Getty Images)
Amy Dowden has suffered a flare-up of Crohn's disease, pictured in December 2018. (Getty Images)

Strictly Come Dancing's Amy Dowden has revealed the reason she missed the show this weekend was due to to experiencing a flare-up of the Crohn's Disease she suffers from. 

The professional dancer was admitted to hospital and is now recovering at the home of dance partner Tom Fletcher and his wife Giovanna Fletcher. 

Sharing a collection of images to her Instagram grid, including a selfie from her hospital bed, Dowden thanked the couple for giving her all the love and care, she needed and revealed that she is on the road to recovery.

"Thanks for the all messages over the weekend," she wrote. "Unfortunately, I was missing from the show as I had an unexpected Crohn’s flare up and hospital admission in which I received unbelievable care. 

"I’m recovering very well and certainly being well looked after and look forward to returning to the dance floor."

Going on to reveal that her fiancé, Benjamin Jones, was away in Blackpool, Dowden was grateful fo the Fletchers for looking after her. 

"The whole family are giving me all the love, care, burnt toast (Tom), unlimited supply of @mrsgifletcher clothes along with @tomfletcher sock choice you could possibly need, lots of drawings and pretend injections from my new doctors Buzz, Buddy and Max. Thank you, they really were sent to me," she added. 

Read more: What it’s really like to live with Crohn’s disease

Tom Fletcher also gave an update on his dance partner's health on his own Instagram. 

"Let it be known that @amy_dowden is one of the strongest people I’ve EVER met!" he wrote.  

"Having watched her documentary about living with Crohn’s before we were partnered together, I had an insight into what she has to live with but, without going into detail, being with her during a Crohn’s flare up this weekend was a pretty scary experience to say the least!"

"She’s home with us now and back to chatting non-stop and drinking her way through our supply of teabags, so I think she’s on the mend," he continued. "Rest assured, the Fletchers are taking care of her."

Amy Dowden has been raising awareness about the condition, pictured with her dance partner, Tom Fletcher in November 2021. (Getty Images)
Amy Dowden has been raising awareness about the condition, pictured with her dance partner, Tom Fletcher in November 2021. (Getty Images)

The professional dancer, started suffering symptoms of the condition from age 11, but was properly diagnosed with Crohn's disease when she was 19, explaining that it was a relief to finally know what was wrong. 

Dowden says coming to terms with the condition was something that took her a while as flare-ups could be debilitating and affect her fledgling dance career when she was younger.

"My health dictated so much of my life from the age of 11 and I had these enormous plans for doing things, and I just wanted to get on with my life, just push it to one side and say, 'I’m Amy the dancer, not Amy with Crohn’s disease'," she told Metro

But as she’s got older, she learnt to accept the illness and reflect on the positive way it may have impacted her life: "It’s made me who I am and I’m not sure I’d have achieved what I have done if it wasn’t for my Crohn’s."

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She has now learnt to manage the condition and looks out for symptoms which may mean she is going to suffer a flare-up. 

"I just have to look out for the signs, which for me start with swollen eyes," she said. "Then I call my doctor. 

"I have learnt to listen to my body, and to notice when things start getting out of tune. I know when I need to rest, and when I have to eat simply and drink lots of water. 

"I have always been driven to win, so Crohn’s was never going to hold me back."

Dowden previously opened up about living with Crohn's to help raise awareness about the condition in a BBC documentary Strictly Down: Crohn's & Me.

Read more: Teacher, 28, often 'screams out loud' due to agonising rare disease

The professional dancer was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at the age of 19, pictured in October 2019. (Getty Images)
The professional dancer was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease at the age of 19, pictured in October 2019. (Getty Images)

What is Crohn's disease?

According to Crohn's and Colitis UK, Crohn's is a condition that causes inflammation of the digestive system (also known as the gastrointestinal tract or gut).

Inflammation is the body’s reaction to injury or irritation, and can cause redness, swelling and pain.

Crohn’s Disease is one of the two main forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The other main form of IBD is a condition known as Ulcerative Colitis. 

Crohn’s is thought to affect 157 in every 100,000 people in the UK, meaning at least 115,000 Britons have the disease.

Crohn’s is sometimes described as a chronic condition. This means that it is ongoing and life-long, although you may have periods of good health (remission) as well as times when symptoms are more active (relapses or flare-ups, such as the one Dowden had over the weekend). 

What are the main symptoms of Crohn's?

Crohn’s Disease symptoms may range from mild to severe, and will vary from person to person.

The NHS says Crohn's disease affects people of all ages. The symptoms usually start in childhood or early adulthood.

The main symptoms, according to Crohn's and Colitis UK are:

• Abdominal pain and diarrhoea. 

• Tiredness and fatigue. This can be due to the illness itself, from the weight loss associated with flare-ups or surgery, from anaemia (see below) or to a lack of sleep if you have to keep getting up in the night with pain or diarrhoea. 

• Feeling generally unwell. Some people may have a raised temperature and feel feverish. 

• Mouth ulcers 

• Loss of appetite and weight loss.  

• Anaemia (a reduced level of red blood cells). You are more likely to develop anaemia if you are losing blood, are not eating much, or your body is not fully absorbing the nutrients from the food you do eat. 

The symptoms may be constant or may come and go every few weeks or months. When they come back, it's called a flare-up.

Read more: Crohn’s could one day be treated with 'freeze-dried faeces capsules'

Treatments for Crohn's

There is currently no cure, but patients are typically offered medication to manage symptoms and often surgery to remove part of the digestive system.

The main treatments are:

  • medicines to reduce inflammation in the digestive system – usually steroid tablets.

  • medicines to stop the inflammation coming back – either tablets or injections.

  • surgery to remove a small part of the digestive system – sometimes this may be a better treatment option than medicines.

Causes of Crohn's disease

While the exact cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, the NHS says several things could play a role, including:

  • your genes – you're more likely to get it if a close family member has it

  • a problem with the immune system (the body's defence against infection) that causes it to attack the digestive system

  • smoking

  • a previous stomach bug

  • an abnormal balance of gut bacteria

Living with Crohn's

Those living with Crohn's say it can be difficult at times, particularly with unpredictable flare-ups, like Dowden suffered this weekend. 

But if symptoms are well controlled, those diagnosed with the condition can live a normal life.

For more information and further support visit Crohn's and Colitis UK.

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