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Inflammatory bowel disease affects an estimated 1 in every 250 people in the United States. Some individuals experience only mild symptoms 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 Symptoms

Symptoms of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis may include:

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

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

Diagnostic Tools

Our physicians use many tools to confirm or rule out a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease. 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
  • Stool culture, to check for various infectious agents
  • Upper endoscopy, to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine)
  • 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

At the University of Chicago Medicine Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center, diagnosis and treatment are continuously informed by the most current and compelling research.