A SHOP owner has been inspired to speak out about his battle with colitis, in the hope of encouraging others not to suffer in silence.
Imran Yousaf, 24, developed agonising stomach pains last August. After two visits to his GP, he collapsed and was taken to hospital.
Medics found he had colitis - a long-term condition, where the large intestine and rectum become inflamed.
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The owner of Premier Late Shopper, in Shear Brow, Blackburn, decided to speak out about his condition after former model Bethany Townsend, who has Crohn's Disease (a similar type of bowel condition), posed in a bikini with her colostomy bag in full view.
The picture encouraged thousands of sufferers to post similar images of themselves online.
Mr Yousaf, of Howgill Close, Nelson said he had never heard of his condition before he was diagnosed.
Urging anyone who suffers unexplained stomach pain to get checked out, he said: “Before this I was a fit and healthy young man. I went to the gym everyday and I worked hard.
“When I started with the stomach pain, I just tried to ignore it, thinking that it would go away but eventually it just became too painful for me to stand. I was screaming in agony. Now, I haven’t worked in my shop for nearly 10 months.”
Colitis sufferers can develop small ulcers on the lining of their colon that can bleed and produce pus if left untreated. In severe cases it can lead to part of the intestine being removed and replaced with a colostomy bag.
It is estimated that around one in every 420 people living in the UK has ulcerative colitis; around 146,000 people.
The condition can develop at any age, but is most often diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 25.
Mr Yousaf praised Miss Townsend’s efforts to raise awareness of the condition.
He said: “I am glad that more people are talking about it and I think she (Bethany) has done a brilliant thing.
“It has made me feel more relaxed about the future that I will face because I know that will be me one day. Darren Fletcher, who plays for Manchester United, has also said that he suffers from colitis and it makes it so much easier to explain my condition to people when they’ve heard that high-profile people have it too.
“At first, I was so embarrassed and shy about it.
“I didn’t even want to tell my family about it but now, I’m on medication, I am feeling a bit better and I’m happy that the world seems to be more open to talking about the condition.
“I just want to urge people to look out for the symptoms and to get checked out straight away.”
For more information about the condition visit www.crohnsandcolitis.org.uk/.