Around 1.6 million Americans have inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, and its occurrence is growing in the United States much faster than in other parts of the world. Typically diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 30, Crohn’s can cause pain, fatigue, nausea, weight loss, diarrhea, and more. Symptoms like these can impact many aspects of a person’s life.
That’s why some people with Crohn’s are getting inked. We asked our readers to send us photos of their Crohn’s tattoos. Scroll down to check out the designs that are helping to spread awareness of the disease and offer support to people who have it.
If you’d like to share the story behind your Crohn’s disease tattoo, email us with the subject line “My Crohn’s Tattoo” and 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’m 27 years old, and I’ve been battling Crohn’s since I was 11. In 2011, I had surgery and now have an ileostomy. I really wanted a tattoo of a purple ribbon with the word ‘survivor’ to represent my fight with Crohn’s, but that wasn’t enough for me. I’ve always been known as a joker, so the black outline behind the ribbon is my ostomy bag. My tattoo suits me perfectly!” — Arika
“I really wanted to get a tattoo symbolizing my fight with Crohn’s disease. I did lots of research and Google searching for Crohn’s tats and didn’t find any I loved so I decided to come up with something on my own — I absolutely love it! I had seen the purple ribbon and loved it, so I decided to incorporate the ‘I will fight’ and the dandelion flying off. I will fight forever and pray there will be a cure one day!” — Stephanie
“‘Acceptance is the key to life.’ You have to accept your disease so you can move forward with your life!” — Toby
“My name is Jenn Depre, and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in 2010 when I was 14 years old. My health has only improved! It has been a long battle and difficult to form relationships with people who certainly don’t understand the disease. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the support from my boyfriend and family.” — Jenn
“The tattoo is on my left wrist, and it’s tattered because it’s such a hard road to live with IBD.” — Jenni Schaeffer
“My name is Reanne White, and I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in July 2014. I suffered for many years, not knowing I had Crohn’s disease. After being diagnosed, I decided that I wanted to get a tattoo. I chose to go with the Crohn’s awareness ribbon (heart shape) and a butterfly. Butterflies are a big part of my family, and when I looked up different things to do with Crohn’s awareness, I saw a lot of butterflies. I just knew that this was the tattoo for me. I drew the heart ribbon myself. Every time I look at my tattoo I know that I am not alone in this battle.” — Reanne
“I got diagnosed with Crohn’s when I was 21. I had no idea what it was until the doctor explained it to me! I have had two surgeries resulting in a very large scar all the way down my stomach. There are too many people in this world that have no idea [about Crohn’s] and should be aware of this terrible disease! I have gained strength in life through the pain I endure!” — Mistie
“I got this tattoo on the one-year anniversary of my resection. I never knew how strong I was until I spent almost a month in the hospital. The boxing gloves represent being a fighter, and the color is, of course, for Crohn’s awareness.” — Elizabeth
“I’ve had Crohn’s for about 27 years. I’ve always used the phrase ‘Hold on — pain ends.’ After five surgeries, a temporary ileostomy that lasted nine years, and chronic pain from this disease, this phrase and my belief in God keep me fighting.” — C.J.
“My Crohn’s tattoo came after a very rough year with Crohn’s. I had been through a lot in such a short period of time that the tattered ribbon made the most sense. It’s on my chest so I can see it and others can see it. The words ‘I’m the hero in this story’ came later and just made sense to me.” — Lexi
“After I was diagnosed with Crohn’s three years ago, I got this tattoo of a Muay Thai fighter with the purple Crohn’s awareness ribbon around his neck. Through all the times I’ve been sick because of Crohn’s, training in Muay Thai has been one of the things that have kept me mentally strong and motivated to fight this illness and get the most out of life despite it. The tattoo symbolizes my ongoing fight and reminds me to keep fighting.” — Daniel
“I’ve suffered from IBDs for 11 years — first severe ulcerative colitis and now Crohn’s — even after having a total colectomy. It was very hard to come to terms with my chronic illness at such a young age, and music has helped me through the hard times. I chose to pair the Crohn’s awareness ribbon with lyrics by my favorite band, My Chemical Romance. It symbolizes that the worst is over and I know I’m strong enough to overcome anything life throws at me.” — Grace
“For me, Crohn’s is about having strength and never giving up the fight. This tattoo, to me, symbolizes endurance and perseverance. It also suggests that the things we go through that bring us strength should not shame us.” — Samantha
“I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2013 at the age of 25. I started having symptoms at 20. I had this lion recently done as I absolutely adore lions. My favorite film is ‘The Lion King,’ and I felt it would be perfect as I feel I am courageous, brave, and motivated like a lion. I have good days and bad days, but I am strong and I’ll keep fighting.” — Kira
“My tattoos represent love, family, strength, and courage with the Crohn’s awareness ribbon. These four things symbolize my journey. My brother, sister, and father have matching love, family, strength, and Crohn’s awareness ribbon tattoos. I added the courage symbol and ribbon after the first part of my colectomy surgery. I am 23 years old and have been battling this disease since I was 16. This tattoo helps me appreciate the struggles in life that make me better and those that help me fight through it.” — Deanna
“I got my tattoo after my temporary ileostomy turned into my permanent colostomy. I spent 22 days in the hospital due to complications from surgery and a MRSA infection. I had lots of visitors, and they all asked me how I dealt with it and stayed so positive. My response was: Shit happens, so I deal with it.” — Rob