Abdominal pain and diarrhea in young adulthood may signal ulcerative colitis

Along with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is one of the most common types of inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcers or sores can form in the lining of the colon and rectum, causing pain and other symptoms. The ulcers may be caused by viruses or bacteria, or by an overreaction of the immune system to normal bacteria in the digestive tract. The condition often affects people between the ages of 15 and 30 though it can happen at any time of life. It also tends to run in families.

Symptoms of ulcerative colitis develop slowly over time and may come and go. You may notice symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, or bleeding from the rectum. In some cases, people develop symptoms, such as:

  • Anemia (due to blood loss through the rectum)
  • Blood or pus in stool
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Weight loss

Because some of these symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, you may need certain tests to help rule out other conditions and diseases, and to verify the presence of ulcers. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and review of your medical history and may suggest testing such as:

Treatment may include over-the-counter or prescription medications to relieve symptoms and discomfort. Your doctor may also recommend dietary changes if food is a trigger for your symptoms. In rare instances, you may need surgical removal of the colon.

Long-term ulcerative colitis increases your risk for colon cancer. Be sure to talk to your doctor about any symptoms or concerns you might have.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.