What is Pediatric Crohn's Disease?
Pedi Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation, or swelling, across the lining of the digestive tract.
Crohn's disease most often affects the end of the small intestine but can happen anywhere along the digestive tract from mouth to anus.
Crohn's disease can move along the digestive tract and can cause inflammation in one area of the digestive tract, leave the next area disease free and affect another area further down.
Crohn's disease is a chronic condition. This means that your child will have to pay attention to and manage the disease throughout their life.
Some children have long periods of remission, sometimes years, when they experience few or no symptoms of the disease. However, the disease will usually come back at different times during your child's life.
Although there is no cure for Crohn's disease at this time, symptoms can be well-controlled with proper treatment.
What causes Pediatric Crohn's disease?
We don't know what caused your child to have Pedi Crohn's disease.
Research suggests that the cause of IBD is a combination of 3 main factors
- immune system
though it is not known yet exactly how these three factors work together.
What we do know is that approximately 1.4 million Americans suffer from IBD (Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis). We know that Pediatric IBD can run in families and that about 30% of children with Crohn's disease have a close family member who also has the disease. We know that Pediatric IBD affects boys and girls equally and affects about 100,000 children just like yours.
How is Pediatric Crohn's disease diagnosed?
Your child will have a physical exam and you will be asked to give a medical history. Your child's doctor may also want to have some tests taken to help decide if your child has Pedi Crohn's disease.
- Lab tests (blood, urine, stool)
- Endoscopic procedures (endoscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy)
- X-rays (Upper/Lower GI series, Abdominal CT Scan)
Blood tests can be used to look for
- low blood counts such as anemia or low iron levels
- poor nutrient absorption by the intestine
- high white blood cell count showing inflammation
- whether or not a treatment is working
Stool samples can be used to look for
- bacteria that causes inflammation
- blood in the stool
X-rays can be used to
- decide if your child has Crohn's disease
- find where the disease is located in the digestive tract
- show areas of swelling or narrowing of the small intestine
Endoscopy gives the doctor more information about your child's digestive tract by using a lighted scope to see inside areas of the intestine. Endoscopy is thought to be the best way to get a definite diagnosis
Common symptoms of Pediatric Crohn's disease
Symptoms can begin slowly or come on suddenly and progress quickly. Your child's symptoms can be very different at times from mild to serious. Symptoms can usually be well-controlled with proper treatment.
Common symptoms can include:
- frequent diarrhea
- stomach pain or cramping
- blood in your child's stool
- weight loss
- joint, skin or eye irritations
What are complications of Crohn's disease?
Complications of Pedi Crohn's disease can include
- Bowel obstruction is a blockage of the intestine that happens when active disease thickens and swells the walls of the intestine and reduces the amount of space for digestive matter to pass through.
- Fistulas are sores, or ulcers, that tunnel through the affected area into nearby tissues, such as the bladder, vagina, anus or rectum. Fistulas can become infected and can be treated with medicine. In some cases surgery may be required.
- Fissures are small tears that can develop in the lining of the mucus membrane of the anus.
- Nutritional deficiencies or lack of age-appropriate amounts of proteins, calories and vitamins can often be a serious problem in children with Crohn's disease. This lack of nutrients can be caused by poor absorption or too few calories taken in on a daily basis.
Other health problems that can come with Pedi Crohn's disease
Children with Crohn's can have other medical problems such as
- arthritis or joint problems
- skin problems
- anemia or not enough iron in the blood
- osteoporosis or weak bones
- delayed growth
Some of these problems can get better during treatment for your child's Crohn's disease and others will need to be treated separately.
Lack of growth or delayed development is one of the most important health problems for children with Crohn's disease.
This is because childhood is a time when nutrition has the most significant impact on growth. If a child is not able to take in enough calories and nutrients they will not grow and develop at a normal rate.
It is very important that the symptoms of this problem be found early and treated so that your child's growth can return to normal.
What are treatment options for children with Crohn's disease?
Treatment of your child's Crohn's disease can include
- nutrition supplements
- combination of these
The goals of treatment are to
- control inflammation
- correct nutritional deficiencies
- relieve and/or control symptoms
Treatment of your child's Crohn's disease can depend on
- where the disease is and how serious it is
- other complications
- whether or not your child has responded to other treatments
Symptoms can be well-controlled with proper treatment and it is very important to make sure your child takes the treatments prescribed by your healthcare provider.
Remember that treatments cannot work, or work as well as they could, if they are not taken on a regular schedule.
When to Call Your Healthcare Provider
Your healthcare provider needs to know if your child has any of the symptoms in this list.
- temperature above 101 degrees F
- stomach pain or cramps that are worse than usual and do not go away
- more than the usual number bowel movements in a day
- a change in the consistency of your child's bowel movements
- blood in the bowel movement or a change in the amount of blood
- new rectal pain
- throwing up for more than 3-4 hours
- vomit that has bile in it (yellow/green color)
- bloated stomach
- tiredness that doesn't go away
- rashes, especially on the lower legs
- swelling or pain in the joints
- swollen or red eyes
- mouth sores and ulcers
Remember, you know your child best. Trust your judgment. If your child is experiencing something that you are not sure about or that makes you feel uncomfortable, let your healthcare provider know right away.