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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

If your child is diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, it is either Crohn’s Disease Ulcerative Colitis or indeterminate colitis. These diseases impact the stomach and small and large intestines, causing pain and discomfort for your child. While the diseases are often diagnosed in adults, studies suggest that up to 30 percent of adult cases can begin in childhood.

Understanding Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
While the two diseases are classified as inflammatory bowel disorders, Crohn’s disease can affect any region of the digestive system, while ulcerative colitis is confined to the large intestine (colon). In both diseases, immune cells are dysfunctional and damage the lining of the digestive system. While it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the two if the inflammation is confined to the large intestines, but if other regions are involved, it is clearly Crohn’s disease.

IBD kid

Children often have more severe symptoms or flare ups when they are under stress or when exposed to certain environmental conditions.

Common symptoms include:

  • Stomach cramping and pain
  • Diarrhea and persistent feeling of need to eliminate stool
  • Bloody, watery stool
  • Delayed growth and onset of puberty
  • Decreased appetite
  • Feeling of constant tiredness, joint pain and eye problems
  • Fever with infection
  • Anemia due to blood loss
  • Vomiting

How is Inflammatory Bowel Disease diagnosed?
When inflammatory bowel disease is suspected in children, our pediatric gastroenterologist will order tests that may include:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC) and other blood tests that can confirm inflammation in the body and antibodies (proteins) found with IBD
  • Stool tests to look for blood, bacteria and inflammation
  • Upper endoscopy that looks at the esophagus, stomach an upper portion of the small intestine
  • Colonoscopy that visualizes the lower small intestine, colon and anus
  • X-rays, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI or capsule endoscopy (depending if previous test results are inconclusive)

How is IBD treated?
Since IBD is a lifelong condition, many children and parents are upset at the diagnosis. It’s important to remember that these diseases can be controlled by working with your pediatric gastroenterologist who will recommend the best treatments based on the severity and status of the disease. Since these conditions are worse during flare ups, education, along with following a healthy diet and taking medication to control symptoms and prevent distress, are all important.

Children sometimes experience weight loss and stop getting taller. These children are often at higher risk for premature thinning of bones. In these cases, your child’s gastroenterologist may recommend intense nutritional therapy, additional calcium and vitamin D supplements and in extreme cases, IV therapy.

Learning how to live and thrive with IBD takes a commitment from the entire family. At first, it can be overwhelming, so having a strong support system is critical to help everyone cope with the disease. WakeMed can offer nutritional and counseling support to children and families living with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.