It’s estimated that more than half a million people in the United States alone have Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, nausea, weight loss, and diarrhea. These can impact many aspects of an individual’s life — which is why some are choosing to get inked.
In addition to raising awareness, these tattoos can help foster courage and bring a bit of humor to the situation, even during the toughest moments (as you’ll see below).
We asked our readers to send us photos of their Crohn’s tattoos. Scroll down to check out their designs.
If you’d like to share the story behind your Crohn’s disease tattoo, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include: a photo of your tattoo, a short description of why you got it or why you love it, and your name.
“I’ve been fighting the war on Crohn’s for almost nine years now, starting when I was 14. Over the years, I developed a need for a symbol for the years of fighting. This is the image that I had imagined and put on my body. Each aspect has a significant role to play. The man in the middle (me) constantly whipping the beast (Crohn’s) back into submission. The two scars are for the permanent marks it has left on me and my family. Each of the scales represent the numerous hospital visits, doctor appointments, medications, and days of pain. There are too many to count. The color orange represents the warm positive outlook for hope. The dark colors represent the rough painful days, while the white highlights are the days where it isn’t so bad — clearly, though, there’s more dark than white. At first glance, you may not think it’s for Crohn’s. If you look at someone who has Crohn’s, though, you wouldn’t know what their world is like until they told you.” — Brandon Latta
“Being such a young age (19) and being diagnosed with this horrible disease, I never knew it could change your life in such a short time. I was diagnosed in October 2016, and by January 2017, I was having emergency surgery to have an ileostomy. I had my tattoo to say I will carry on fighting whatever this disease throws at me.” — Anonymous
“I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2003 after a two-year battle with doctors and specialists. The spoon theory inspired my tattoo. The design has the month and year I was finally saved with a diagnosis, and the spoon represents my ‘spare spoon’ that’s for me to keep for myself. The actual spoon design is a spoon from the silverware I used growing up in my parents’ home. It was a wedding gift from my grandmother to them. And, of course, my purple ribbon tied around it to represent my Crohn’s.” — Kaileigh Beggan
“This is my Crohn’s tattoo. Four years ago, I had a tough battle with my Crohn’s, which included seven surgeries removing my appendix, my gallbladder, and 10 to 12 inches of my intestines. Three of those surgeries were emergency, including one when I almost died after my intestine tore and spilled into my gut. That surgery left me with an ileostomy for seven months before getting a reversal. In all, I spent over 100 days in the hospital over the course of six months. Once I had recovered and was beginning to feel better, I decided to get a tattoo to represent my ongoing battle with Crohn’s. I’m a comedic guy with a love for puns, so when I got my tattoo, I decided to get a semicolon since I’m missing part of my colon. I also got the phrase ‘Life takes guts,’ because I had to give up some of my guts to live through my battle. I use my tattoo as a conversation starter and a way to help me remember to keep on fighting.” — Richard Gremel
“This is my handwriting to remind me it’s my choice to be depressed about my disease or joyful. The butterfly represents the endurance through life changes.” — Tina
“My tattoo symbolizes so much in my life. I got it just when I was medically discharged from the military for having Crohn’s disease, fibromyalgia, and a few other issues. Having Crohn’s has been a nightmare for me and my military career. It was also the cause of having a premature baby at 23 weeks of gestation. Today, they’re 5 months old and still in the NICU. I guess it’s life, and I try my best to deal with it.” — Amelia
“I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in September 2015. I had struggled with stomach and intestinal issues for years. My first prognosis was just ulcers and Helicobacter pylori, which I did end up having, before my first colonoscopy. This confirmed I had Crohn’s. It’s been a long, hard journey, and it will forever be, but I will continue to fight. My tattoo represents my courage and strength: ‘The pain I feel today will be the strength I have tomorrow.’” — Chantalle
“I’m 48 years old, and I was diagnosed at the age of 25. I’ve used every medicine possible, and now I’m living with a permanent ileostomy.” — Valencia
“Not so long ago, I got this tattoo to mark my 10-year anniversary with ulcerative colitis (UC). Looking back, I can say we’ve had a very stormy relationship. UC took a lot, but it also gave me much more than I could’ve ever imagined. I’ve become a better person because of it: less judgmental, more compassionate, more loving, and humble. For 10 years I got enduring love and support from my family and found out who my true friends were. And, of course, the most important thing: I became a fighter. I became resilient. Getting this tattoo was almost an emotional experience, but I’m so happy I have it now. It’s small, but the message for me isn’t. It reminds me every day how strong I am fighting this illness. And that’s something UC will never take from me.” — Jane Noijen