Inflammatory bowel disease refers to two diseases which affect the gastrointestinal tract (which includes the stomach, small intestine and large intestine): Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are two illnesses characterized by immune cells causing damage (inflammation) to the lining of the stomach or intestines. As many as 25-40% of patients develop symptoms during childhood and adolescence.
How are Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis different?
In Crohn's disease, any area of the digestive system, from the mouth to the anus, may be affected. In ulcerative colitis, only the large intestine (colon) is involved. Treatment of both diseases is geared toward decreasing the injury to the intestine and promoting growth. Because ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease affect different areas of the gastrointestinal tract, there are some minor differences in therapy based on the location of the patient's disease.
In a very small minority of patients, the patient may clearly have inflammatory bowel disease, but we are unable to determine if it due to Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. These patients are given the diagnosis of indeterminate colitis. In many cases of indeterminate colitis, we are later able to determine if it is Crohn's disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
Causes of IBD
The cause of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is still unknown. There is likely an interaction between a person's genetic makeup and their environment which triggers the disease process.
It is natural that some children may become overwhelmed with the thought of having a lifelong illness. They will need the support of family, friends, and sometimes, a professional counselor. Many of our patients and their families benefit from attending support groups and summer camps for children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Many of these activities are sponsored by the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), and information is available at ccfa.org.
The pediatric gastroenterologists at Riley Hospital for Children Gastroenterology at Indiana University Health are actively participating in a large variety of local and national research studies. These studies are examining new treatments and new tests to help with diagnosis. We are also participating in studies about the quality of life in children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Finally, we are performing sophisticated studies about protein and calorie metabolism in these children. We are the recipients of several grants to continue this research. Your child's gastroenterologist may ask you about your interest in participating in these studies.
For More Information
Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America - ccfa.org/chapters/
North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition - NASPGHAN.org
Children's Digestive Health & Nutrition Foundation - cdhnf.org