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Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to two conditions that affect the gastrointestinal tract (which includes the stomach, small intestine and large intestine). Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are two illnesses characterized by immune cells that cause damage and inflammation to the lining of the stomach or intestines. Between 25 and 40 percent of patients develop symptoms during childhood and adolescence.
The cause of IBD is still unknown. There is likely an interaction between a person's genetic makeup and their environment that triggers the disease process.
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affect different parts of the gastrointestinal tract. 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.
Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease vary and may include:
In a small number of children, the patient may clearly have inflammatory bowel disease, but physicians are unable to determine if Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis is the cause. These children are diagnosed with indeterminate colitis. Gastroenterologists can often pinpoint the cause of the colitis and inflammation later in the child’s life.
Your child's pediatric gastroenterologist may perform the following exams and tests to correctly diagnose inflammatory bowel disease:
Treatment of inflammatory bowel disease involves treating the specific type of the disease—Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. Treatments are designed to decrease injury to the intestines and promote 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. It is natural for some children to become overwhelmed with having a lifelong illness. They will need the support of family, friends and, sometimes, a professional counselor.
Visit the websites below to find support groups and services and learn more about inflammatory bowel disease.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This website includes material on living with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and provides information about support groups and camps for children living with these conditions.
This website from the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition includes resources and nutrition guides for parents and children living with inflammatory bowel disease.
Our pediatric gastroenterologists actively participate 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.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.
Sort through 6 facilities offering Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) care by entering your city or zip below.