Eagles’ Glenn Frey Succumbs to Intestinal Illness

 “It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of husband, best friend, father, comrade, and Eagles founder, Glenn Frey, in New York City on Monday, January 18th, 2016. Glenn fought a courageous battle for the past several weeks but, sadly, succumbed to complications from Rheumatoid Arthritis, Acute Ulcerative Colitis and Pneumonia.”

It was with these words that iconic rock band, The Eagles, announced the sad news that Glenn Frey, 67, had died.

It was known that Frey had been suffering with intestinal ailments on and off for many years. Frey had a portion of his intestine removed in 1990, and was later forced off the road during the Eagles’ celebrated Hell Freezes Over reunion tour in 1994 by a bout of diverticulitis.

In November 2015, Frey “has had a recurrence of previous intestinal issues, which will require major surgery and a lengthy recovery period.”   This forced the Eagles to postpone the band’s inclusion in the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors in the hope that Glenn would be able to join them on stage for next year’s celebration.

Frey co-founded the Eagles in 1971 with singer/drummer Don Henley, guitarist Bernie Leadon and bassist Randy Meisner. Glenn was responsible for singing and co-writing many of the band’s biggest hits, including “Take It Easy”  (co-written with Jackson Browne),  “Tequila Sunrise,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” as well as “New Kid in Town” and “Heartache Tonight.” The band broke up in 1980, and Frey had a successful solo career, with hits such as “The Heat Is On” and “You Belong to the City.” The group reformed in 1994 and toured on and off since that time.  The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

What is ulcerative colitis?

ulcerative-colitisUlcerative colitis is a chronic, or long lasting, disease that causes inflammation—irritation or swelling—and sores called ulcers on the inner lining of the large intestine.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Crohn’s disease and microscopic colitis are the other common IBDs.

Ulcerative colitis most often begins gradually and can become worse over time. Symptoms can be mild to severe. Most people have periods of remission—times when symptoms disappear—that can last for weeks or years. The goal of care is to keep people in remission long term.

What is the large intestine?

The large intestine is part of the GI tract, a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus—an opening through which stool leaves the body. The last part of the GI tract, called the lower GI tract, consists of the large intestine—which includes the appendix, cecum, colon, and rectum—and anus. The intestines are sometimes called the bowels.

The large intestine is about 5 feet long in adults and absorbs water and any remaining nutrients from partially digested food passed from the small intestine. The large intestine changes waste from liquid to a solid matter called stool. Stool passes from the colon to the rectum. The rectum is located between the lower, or sigmoid, colon and the anus. The rectum stores stool prior to a bowel movement, when stool moves from the rectum to the anus and out of a person’s body.

What causes ulcerative colitis (UC)?

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown. Researchers believe the following factors may play a role in causing ulcerative colitis:

  • Overactive intestinal immune system. Scientists believe one cause of ulcerative colitis may be an abnormal immune reaction in the intestine. Normally, the immune system protects the body from infection by identifying and destroying bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful foreign substances. Researchers believe bacteria or viruses can mistakenly trigger the immune system to attack the inner lining of the large intestine. This immune system response causes the inflammation, leading to symptoms.
  • Genes. Ulcerative colitis sometimes runs in families. Research studies have shown that certain abnormal genes may appear in people with ulcerative colitis. However, researchers have not been able to show a clear link between the abnormal genes and ulcerative colitis.
  • Environment. Some studies suggest that certain things in the environment may increase the chance of a person getting ulcerative colitis, although the overall chance is low. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs,1 antibiotics,1 and oral contraceptives2 may slightly increase the chance of developing ulcerative colitis. A high-fat diet may also slightly increase the chance of getting ulcerative colitis.3

Some people believe eating certain foods, stress, or emotional distress can cause ulcerative colitis. Emotional distress does not seem to cause ulcerative colitis. A few studies suggest that stress may increase a person’s chance of having a flare-up of ulcerative colitis. Also, some people may find that certain foods can trigger or worsen symptoms.

What are the signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

ulcerative colitisThe most common signs and symptoms of ulcerative colitis are diarrhea with blood or pus and abdominal discomfort. Other signs and symptoms include

  • an urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • feeling tired
  • nausea or loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • fever
  • anemia—a condition in which the body has fewer red blood cells than normal

Less common symptoms include

  • joint pain or soreness
  • eye irritation
  • certain rashes

The symptoms a person experiences can vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and where it occurs in the intestine. When symptoms first appear, most people with ulcerative colitis have mild to moderate symptoms
about 10 percent of people can have severe symptoms, such as frequent, bloody bowel movements; fevers; and severe abdominal cramping

How is ulcerative colitis treated?

A health care provider treats ulcerative colitis with medication and/or surgery. Which treatment a person needs depends on the severity of the disease and the symptoms. Each person experiences ulcerative colitis differently, so health care providers adjust treatments to improve the person’s symptoms and induce, or bring about, remission.

Medications

While no medication cures ulcerative colitis, many can reduce symptoms. The goals of medication therapy are inducing and maintaining remission and improving the person’s quality of life

Many people with ulcerative colitis require medication therapy indefinitely, unless they have their colon and rectum surgically removed.

Some of the medication used to treat a UC symptoms include:

  • Aminosalicylates
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immunomodulators
  • Biologics, also called anti-TNF therapies
  • Other medications

Surgery

Some people will need surgery to treat their ulcerative colitis when they have

  • colon cancer
  • dysplasia, or precancerous cells in the colon
  • complications that are life threatening, such as megacolon or bleeding
  • no improvement in symptoms or condition despite treatment
  • continued dependency on steroids
  • side effects from medications that threaten their health

Removal of the entire colon, including the rectum, “cures” ulcerative colitis. A surgeon performs the procedure at a hospital. A surgeon can perform two different types of surgery to remove a patient’s colon and treat ulcerative colitis:

  • proctocolectomy and ileostomy
  • proctocolectomy and ileoanal reservoir

Full recovery from both operations may take 4 to 6 weeks.

 

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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