Digestive Health

Updated 26 April 2017

Karen Botha has Crohn's disease

Former Springbok long jumper and wife of former Springbok rugby player Naas Botha, Karen Botha has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, Beeld newspaper has reported.


Former Springbok long jumper Karen Botha has been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, Beeld newspaper has reported.

"As a result of the disease I already have a thyroid that does not function and my body cannot retain any iron," Botha, 44, said. "I must receive blood transfusions as a result, or take intravenous iron supplements."

What is Crohn's disease?

Crohn's disease is a chronic inflammation of the bowel that can affect any area from the mouth to the rectum. The other common inflammatory condition of the bowel is ulcerative colitis, which can be very difficult to distinguish from Crohn’s disease. As the name implies, ulcerative colitis only affects the colon.

The most common symptom is abdominal pain, often situated in the right lower abdomen. It can easily be confused with appendicitis. However, the pain pattern often can be very non-specific, occurring in any part of the abdomen and varying in intensity.

It is impossible to predict the course of Crohn's disease. Some patients experience long periods of remission while in others the disease is aggressive with the development of complications. Once in remission it is important to stay on maintenance therapy, lead a healthy life-style and report any symptoms suggesting a relapse to your doctor. If a relapse is suspected, treatment should be vigorous to prevent complications and induce remission again.

Most patients with Crohn's are able to lead a fairly normal life, hold jobs and function successfully at home and in society.

Botha's prognosis

Botha, who is married to former Springbok rugby player Naas Botha, said some of the treatment she had received had given her an enlarged liver.

"The sores on my intestine are bleeding and that is where the disease is life threatening."

Karen, who said she was receiving tremendous support from her husband and three daughters, would be forced to wear a colostomy bag if the symptoms were not monitored regularly.

"I'm not afraid, even though I am uncertain what the future holds for me," she said.

Karen, who competed at the 1992 Olympic Games, set a South African long jump record of 6.85 metres in March 1990 which stood for more than 17 years. - (Sapa, July 2011)

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