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Crohn's Disease

Pediatric Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition. This means that you will have to pay attention to and manage the disease throughout your 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 life.

Although there is no cure for Crohn’s disease at this time, symptoms can be well-controlled with proper treatment.

digestive systemPedi 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 happens in 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.

We don’t know exactly what caused you to get Pedi Crohn’s disease. Research suggests that the cause of Crohn’s disease is a combination of 3 things

  • genetics
  • immune system
  • environment

but we don’t know how it is that these things work together.

We do know that Pedi IBD can run in families and that about 30% of children with Pedi IBD 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 you.

To diagnose your Crohn’s disease, you will most likely have a physical exam and be asked to give a medical history. Your doctor may also want to have some tests taken to help decide if you have Pedi Crohn’s disease like

  • Lab tests (blood, urine, stool)
  • Endoscopic procedures (endoscopy, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy)
  • X-rays (Upper/Lower GI series, Abdominal CT Scan)

These tests will also be used to check on how a new treatment is working and to see if your disease is active or in remission.

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
  • inflammation

X-rays can be used to

  • decide if you have Crohn’s disease
  • find where the disease is located in your digestive tract
  • show areas of swelling or narrowing of your small intestine

Endoscopy gives the doctor more information about your digestive tract by using a lighted scope to see inside areas of your intestine. Endoscopy is thought to be the best way to get a definite diagnosis.

Symptoms can begin slowly or come on suddenly and get worse very quickly. Your symptoms can be very different, sometimes mild and other times serious. Symptoms can usually be well-controlled with the right treatment.

You can have symptoms like:

  • a lot of diarrhea
  • stomach pain or cramping
  • blood in your stool
  • fevers
  • weight loss
  • joint, skin or eye irritations

Some complications of Pedi Crohn’s disease are

  • 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 needed.

  • Fissures are small tears that can happen 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 Pedi Crohn’s disease. This lack of nutrients can happen when children do not get enough calories every day.

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 Pedi 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 Pedi Crohn’s disease. This is because childhood is a time when nutrition has the biggest effect on growth. 

If you are not able to take in enough calories and nutrients it will be difficult for your body to 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 growth can return to normal.

Treatment of your Pedi Crohn's disease can include

  • medications
  • nutrition supplements
  • surgery
  • combination of these

The goals of treatment are to

  • control inflammation,
  • correct nutritional deficiencies
  • relieve and/or control symptoms

Treatment of your Pedi Crohn’s disease can depend on

  • where the disease is and how serious it is
  • other complications
  • whether or not you have responded to other treatments

Symptoms can be well-controlled with proper treatment and it is very important to make sure that you take the treatments prescribed by your healthcare provider.

Remember that treatments work best when they are taken exactly as your doctor explained to you and on a regular schedule. 

Your parents need to know right away if you have 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 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 body. Trust your judgment. If you are feeling something that you are not sure about or that makes you feel uncomfortable, let your parents know right away.

 

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