What is IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) affects an estimated 1 in 250 people. Some individuals experience only mild symptoms of IBD while others have more severe Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Early diagnosis and treatment of IBD is important for the ongoing management of the disease. IBD can lead to other health concerns, including anemia, eye inflammation, skin ulcers, liver disease, kidney stones, impaired growth, joint pain and/or osteoporosis.

What are Common Symptoms of IBD?

Symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Anemia and/or iron deficiency
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain and swelling
  • Multiple or recurrent mouth ulcers
  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Rectal bleeding and/or bloody stools
  • Weight loss      

In addition, patients may notice other general signs, such as the development of a fever, rash, loss of appetite or changes to menstrual cycles.

How to Diagnose IBD

Our physicians use many tools to diagnose IBD. Our team will start by performing a comprehensive history and physical exam and may order some or all of the following tests:

  • Blood tests, to check for anemia and levels of inflammation
  • Colonoscopy, to examine the colon and terminal ileum (small intestine)
  • Imaging studies, such as small bowel follow-through, CAT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance), which assesses the small and large intestine
  • Stool culture, to check for various infectious agents
  • Upper endoscopy, to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine)

At the UChicago Medicine Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, diagnosing IBD — as well as treating IBD — is informed by the most current and compelling research.

What are the Lesser Known Symptoms of IBD?

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