Credit: Information in this article draws on insights from IBD expert Amber J. Tresca.

The symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) differ from person to person with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, but some symptoms may signal IBD is present. What are some symptoms of IBD and what should you do if you experience them?

Have you wondered if the cause of your stomach problems is Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis? Blood or mucus in the stool is a potential symptom of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Unintentional weight loss, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are also symptoms of IBD.

These symptoms can also occur with other digestive diseases. That’s why anyone who has them needs to see a gastroenterologist. However, in some cases, these symptoms could lead a doctor to consider IBD. Find out more about how these symptoms occur in people who have IBD.

This article provides an informative overview of some key symptoms that may indicate inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Here are the main takeaways:

  • Blood or mucus in stool are potential red flags for IBD and warrant seeing a doctor. Other conditions can also cause these symptoms, so a gastroenterologist should evaluate them.
  • Abdominal pain is common with IBD, especially cramping pain in the lower left abdomen with ulcerative colitis or lower right abdomen with Crohn’s disease. Severe pain requires prompt medical attention.
  • Persistent diarrhea lasting over 3 days, especially if explosive and frequent, may signal IBD. It should be evaluated along with other symptoms.
  • Unexplained, unintentional weight loss is another possible symptom, often resulting from reduced appetite or diarrhea. Sudden weight loss merits medical investigation.
  • IBD symptoms can be vague initially. It’s important to be aware of changes and seek medical advice if concerning patterns emerge. Early evaluation and treatment can help manage IBD.
  • Seeing a gastroenterologist for evaluation of potential IBD symptoms allows for proper diagnosis and treatment planning. Don’t delay if symptoms are impacting quality of life.

1. Rectal Bleeding

Bleeding from your rectum, or blood in your stool, is never a normal occurrence, and it is a symptom of IBD. Many people may link blood in the stool to colon cancer. But, there are many reasons you could be passing blood in your stool.

The first thing to do is to be sure that the red or black color you are actually seeing is indeed blood. Red foods or food coloring can cause a stool to look as though it contains blood. Hemorrhoids can cause blood on the stool or on the toilet paper, but it is usually in small amounts.

Blood in the stool is a common symptom of ulcerative colitis. It also occurs in Crohn’s disease but to a lesser degree.

Blood loss could be a lot with ulcerative colitis. If you can’t think of why your stool would be an odd color, see a doctor. If it continues or is with diarrhea, pain, or vomiting, see your doctor now.

2. Mucus In The Stool

Passing mucus in your stool is not necessarily always a cause for alarm. After all, mucus is a normal part of stool, but you usually aren’t going to see it with the naked eye. If there’s enough mucus in your stool for you to be aware of it, there could be several reasons as to why this is happening.

People with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease do sometimes pass visible amounts of mucus in their stool. This happens due to ulcers in the colon or possibly the formation of a fissure. Other conditions can cause mucus in the stool.

They include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bacterial infections, and bowel obstructions. If the mucus comes with belly pain, vomiting, or diarrhea, see your doctor right away. Get it checked out.

3. Abdominal Pain

Stomach pain can be hard to diagnose. It is non-specific and can be a symptom of many diseases. People with ulcerative colitis tend to have crampy pain. It is in the lower left of the abdomen.

People with Crohn’s disease tend to have pain in the middle of the lower right of the abdomen. But, pain could show up in other parts of the abdomen too.

Not all with IBD have pain. The pain may come and go. It can happen after a meal and be relieved by a bowel movement. If you have severe abdominal pain.

You also have vomiting, nausea, and fever. These are symptoms of a bowel obstruction. You should seek medical care right away.

4. Persistent Diarrhea

Diarrhea has many causes, and most healthy adults have diarrhea a few times a year. Often, diarrhea resolves on its own, and the cause may go undiscovered. However, persistent diarrhea lasts more than 3 days. It can be a sign of a problem that might need treatment.

People with IBD often have episodes of “explosive” diarrhea. They have them several times a day. This could be anywhere from 3 to even 10 or 20 watery bowel movements a day.

If you have diarrhea that won’t go away and is also paired with abdominal pain, blood in the stool, weight loss, fever, or other symptoms, see your doctor soon.

5. Unintended Weight Loss

Our culture is full of ideas on how to lose weight. Many adults in the West are overweight. But, if you are losing weight without eating less or exercising, it could be a sign of a problem in your body. One symptom of IBD is diarrhea (see above), which can lead to rapid weight loss. Also, people with IBD often lack appetite.

This can cause unintended weight loss from not eating enough. If you are suddenly losing weight unexpectedly, you should see your doctor.

This is especially true if you also have ongoing diarrhea, vomiting, or a lack of appetite. Gaining weight while in remission might become a priority, but it should be done in a healthful way.

Symptoms Of IBD

Many of the symptoms of IBD, by themselves, might not raise any red flags. That’s why it’s important to be aware of what digestive symptoms may mean.

Any blood in the stool should always be checked out by a doctor right away. Bad stomach pain could mean many things.

A doctor should check it out as soon as possible. If you are concerned about any symptoms, see your doctor right away. Or, go to a prompt care center or an emergency department.

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