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About Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Children


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Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is an autoimmune disease that causes the intestine to become inflamed, leading to uncomfortable symptoms and preventing proper absorption of nutrients. Many factors, including genes and the environment, contribute to its development. There are two main types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract but usually centers on the small intestine. It can also spread into the deeper layers of the bowel tissue.

Ulcerative colitis only affects the large intestine (the colon) and the disease is primarily found in the inside lining.

Children with IBD generally experience flare-ups of symptoms followed by periods of remission, with no symptoms. The goal of treatment is to minimize flare-ups and maintain remission. There is no cure for IBD but with early treatment and long-term management, children with IBD can live full and active lives.

Learn more about our pediatric IBD Center.

What are the symptoms of IBD?

Symptoms of IBD vary depending on the child. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent diarrhea
  • Blood in the stool
  • Urge to stool frequently or urge to stool at night
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Weight loss or poor growth
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained fevers
  • Decreased appetite

How is IBD diagnosed?

During your first visit to the Pediatric IBD Center, we will give your child a physical examination and ask you for a full medical history. We will also want to schedule some tests, which may include the following:

  • Blood tests help us check for anemia and inflammation.
  • Stool sample allows us to check for infectious agents.
  • Imaging studies may include magnetic resonance enterography (MRE), CT scan, barium X-ray, DEXA scan and/or bone age assessment.
  • Colonoscopy examines the colon and the small intestine.
  • Endoscopic procedures, such as upper endoscopy, colonoscopy and/or video capsule endoscopy, examine the esphogus, stomach, and the duodenum, or upper part of the small intestine.
  • Biopsy evaluation tests tissue samples that are taken during a colonoscopy or endoscopy.

Read about our approach to IBD treatment for children. 

Very Early Onset IBD

When children are diagnosed with IBD at a very young age, it is called very early onset IBD, or VEO-IBD.  Symptoms are usually more severe in children with VEO-IBD and do not respond to standard treatments. VEO-IBD usually has a genetic cause, and a blood test can often diagnose the disease. Researchers have identified some of the genetic mutations that cause VEO-IBD and we are able to provide targeted treatments in some cases.