Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a condition that causes parts of the intestine
(bowel) to get red and swollen. It's a chronic condition, which means it lasts a long
time or constantly comes and goes.
Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract
from mouth to anus (where poop comes out). The inflammation of Crohn's disease damages
the entire bowel wall.
Ulcerative colitis happens only in the large intestine,
or colon. It causes sores called ulcers that affect the inner lining of the colon.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
The most common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease are belly pain and diarrhea.
Other symptoms include:
blood in the toilet, on toilet paper, or in the stool (poop)
Inflammatory bowel disease can cause other problems, such as rashes, eye problems,
joint pain and arthritis, and liver problems. Children with inflammatory bowel disease
may not grow as well as other kids their age and puberty may happen later than normal.
What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
The exact cause of IBD is not clear. It is probably a combination of genetics,
the immune system, and something in
the environment that triggers inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Diet and
stress may make symptoms worse, but probably don't cause inflammatory bowel disease.
Who Gets Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
IBD tends to run in families. But not everyone with IBD has a family history of
the disease. Inflammatory bowel disease can happen at any age, but is usually diagnosed
in teens and young adults.
How Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Diagnosed?
Inflammatory bowel disease is diagnosed with a combination of blood tests, stool
(poop) tests, and X-rays. Medical imaging tests, such as CT
scans and MRI, might be done too.
The doctor will examine a stool sample for the presence of blood, and might look
at the colon with an instrument called an endoscope, a long, thin
tube attached to a TV monitor. In this procedure, called a colonoscopy,
the tube is inserted through the anus to allow the doctor to see inflammation, bleeding,
or ulcers on the wall of the colon. During the procedure, the doctor might do a biopsy, taking small samples that can be
sent for further testing.
How Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treated?
IBD is treated with medicines, changes in diet, and sometimes surgery. The goal
of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent other problems, and prevent future flare-ups.
A doctor may recommend:
anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease the inflammation
immunosuppressive agents to prevent the immune system from causing further inflammation
biologic agents to block proteins that cause inflammation
Because some medicines make it harder to fight infections, it's important that
your child be tested for tuberculosis
and have all recommended vaccines
before starting treatment.
Surgery may be necessary if:
the bowel gets a hole
the bowel becomes blocked
bleeding can't be stopped
symptoms don't respond to treatment
What Else Should I Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
Poor appetite, diarrhea, and poor digestion of nutrients can make it hard for people
with inflammatory bowel disease to get the calories and nutrients the body needs.
Children with IBD should eat a variety of foods, get plenty of fluids, and learn to
avoid foods that make symptoms worse. Some children may need supplements, like calcium or vitamin
D. Kids who are not growing well may need additional nutrition support.
Kids and teens with IBD can feel different and might not be able to do the things
their friends can do, especially during flare-ups. Some struggle with a poor self-image,
depression, or anxiety. They may not take their
medicine or follow their diet. It's important to talk to your health care professional
if you're concerned about your child's mood, behavior, or school performance.