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9/19/22blog post

why is my teen losing so much weight?

in this article:

Has your teen lost an unexplainable amount of weight? Have they expressed concern about seeing blood in their poop? Whether these symptoms show up on their own or together, they may be the body’s way of saying something more serious is going on.

According to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, as many as 80,000 children and teens in the United States may be living with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Inflammatory bowel disease (which is not the same thing as irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS) refers to chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the intestines. These diseases are known as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease can be hard to diagnose, even if the bowel has been damaged over many years. And IBD symptoms often resemble those of other conditions, which may make it more difficult to diagnose. We asked Kelly Sandberg, MD, MSc, pediatric gastroenterologist and medical director of the inflammatory bowel disease program at Dayton Children’s Hospital to help us identify the symptoms that are considered red flags for IBD.

what are the symptoms of IBD?

The first thing to take into consideration is that symptoms of IBD can look different from person to person, and they can change over time. This is why it can be difficult to diagnose. However, there are several symptoms that are common among patients with IBD.

symptoms related to the inflammation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract:

  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Urgent need to poop
  • Sensation of incomplete evacuation (didn’t get all the poop out)
  • Rashes/ mouth sores
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Problems around the anus
    • Skin tags: A small, soft, flesh-colored benign growth of skin
    • Fissure: A slit of tear in the tissue that lines the anus
    • Fistula: An abnormal connection or passageway that connects bowel to another area of the body

other symptoms that may be associated with IBD:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of normal menstrual cycle
  • Sensation of feeling full fast or faster than used to

when are these symptoms a cause for concern?

Any of the symptoms listed above can be cause for concern and should be evaluated by a medical professional. Your teen’s primary care provider is the best place to start when seeking medical care. Be sure to inform their provider of all concerns and symptoms your teen is experiencing. However, if your teen is experiencing an excessive amount of blood in their poop, they should be seen in the emergency department for immediate evaluation and treatment.

After medical examination, if your teen is suspected of having IBD, a referral should be made to a pediatric gastroenterologist, or you can schedule an appointment online.

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Kelly Sandberg, MD, MSc

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