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Crohn's Disease (Pediatric)

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition of the digestive and immune systems in which the intestine becomes inflamed. It can affect any part of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and usually affects the small intestine. Because the immune system improperly attacks the GI tract, Crohn’s disease is considered an autoimmune condition. If not properly controlled, inflammation of the intestine leads to damage.

Who is affected by Crohn’s disease?

Anyone can develop Crohn’s disease, but it is more common in some families, with multiple family members having the disease. It can present during childhood or adulthood and many develop the disease during adolescence. Crohn’s disease affects the whole family because it impacts a child’s ability to eat and have bowel movements. Our focus is always on the child in the context of his/her family.

What causes Crohn’s disease?

This condition develops when a child with an underlying genetic risk is affected by a certain set of environmental factors, including food. The immune system gets disrupted and this leads to inflammation in the intestine. Some of the genetic contributions to Crohn’s disease are known, but not everyone with these genetic changes develops the condition. The specific environmental factors that cause Crohn’s disease are currently unknown. Though Crohn’s disease cannot be prevented, it can be treated.

What are the symptoms of Crohn’s disease?

Symptoms include belly pain, low appetite, diarrhea or loose stools, blood in the stool, unexplained fevers or fatigue, weight loss or inability to gain weight, and inability to gain height. Crohn’s disease can also cause joint pains, eye pain, and certain rashes.

How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

Crohn’s disease is diagnosed through a history and physical examination by a doctor, laboratory testing, imaging tests, and an upper endoscopy and a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy confirms the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.

What is the treatment for Crohn’s disease?

There are many treatment options for Crohn’s disease. We design treatment courses to meet the needs of children in the context of their family. Treatments include nutritional therapy, such as Enteral Nutritional Therapy, medications that suppress the immune system (some are given by injection), and, sometimes, surgery.