PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Over one and a half million Americans suffer from inflammatory bowel disease and several studies show that it's striking younger generations, drastically interfering in their daily lives.
Action News spoke with one college student who said a surgery at Temple Health saved his life.
Twenty-one-year-old Shane Albertson said his Crohn's disease was absolutely debilitating.
"I wasn't able to finish my meals. I was having severe low abdominal pain that would have me on the floor hunched over because it was so bad," Albertson said.
Inflammatory bowel disease is a series of conditions that includes Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, normally treated with medication.
"We think it's an over-activation of the immune system," said Dr. Adam Ehrlich, a gastroenterologist at Temple Health. "By suppressing the immune system, we can sort of reduce that inflammation and get symptoms under control."
But that traditional route failed Albertson.
"I tried different medicine, but nothing was really working long term," said Albertson.
That's when he saw Dr. Howard Ross at Temple Health.
Dr. Ross said Albertson was at a critical point when he saw him.
"He would have died without surgery; he needed surgery," Dr. Ross said.
Dr. Ross said Albertson's problem wasn't just Crohn's disease. He also had an infection and intestines that weren't developed correctly.
After two surgeries in 2017, Albertson is leading a normal life.
The college student said finding Dr. Ross was life-changing.
"If you see there's no light at the end of the tunnel, that's what Shane to me is about. I mean, he is the light at the end of the tunnel. He's going to do great, have a great life. I mean it's really super exciting," Dr. Ross said.
Dr. Adam Ehrlich said Albertson's case is extreme. The lesson is to be completely open and honest with your primary care physician.
"You have new symptoms that are unusual, you're not sure what's going on - talk to your primary care. That might include diarrhea that you didn't have before, pain, bleeding, weight loss that's unexplained. All of those things are reasons that you should talk to your doctor," said Dr. Ehrlich.
Surgery at Temple Health saves young patient with inflammatory bowel disease