As a parent, one of the most difficult situations you may experience is the illness of your child. Fortunately, stomach bugs, colds, and even broken arms only last for a little while and your happy, carefree child will begin to act like him or herself again. But for children diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease, the pain and discomfort your child feels may last a lifetime. However, a new study just might pave the way for children to experience relief.
Crohn’s Disease In Children
Although the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is more common in adults than in children, it is possible for children under the age of 20 to be diagnosed with a life-changing inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In adults, inflammation is usually stable and located in one specific area of the small or large intestine. For children, however, the inflammation can spread throughout the entire digestive tract and complications are more common. Especially as children grow into their adolescent and teenage years, the diagnosis can be just as emotionally draining as it is physically.
If your child is experiencing symptoms of Crohn's disease or has already been diagnosed, be aware of potential complications. One major complication is poor growth and weight gain. This may be linked to the digestive system’s inability to process nutrients correctly. It may also be a result of your child’s limitation of certain foods in order to avoid symptoms. However, your child may not be getting the correct of amount of vitamins and nutrients which is stunting his or her growth. As a result of poor weight gain, your child may experience delayed puberty. This complication most commonly affects girls. Delayed puberty may result in a shorter stature, but also has the potential to harm the emotional state of your adolescent who feels left behind as she watches her peers mature more quickly. Be sure to comfort and encourage your child if he or she is struggling emotionally as a result of a Crohn’s diagnosis. The last complication seen in many children with IBD is low bone mineral density—the amount of calcium and minerals in your bones. Bone mass is fully acquired by the time a girl reaches the age of 16 and a boy is between 18 and 20. Sex hormones are necessary for minerals to accumulate, therefore, delayed puberty directly affects bone building. Unfortunately, this continues into adulthood, and adults with Crohn’s often experience many fractures.
A Hopeful Study
The study from the University of Pittsburgh was done on a small group of children of which the median age was 12. Of the 21 children studied, 14 had been previously diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and seven with Crohn’s disease. The study monitored the result of the children after they had a fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT). The children all had a mild to moderate diagnosis and had otherwise not responded well to treatment. In this study, each child received one dose of healthy stool from a relative. At the end of the month prior to receiving the fecal transplant, 50% of the children with ulcerative colitis experienced a positive clinical response and three patients maintained the response after six months of the transplant. In the children with Crohn’s disease, 71% experienced a positive clinical response and three children maintained the response at the six month mark. In fact, two children experienced remission within the six months after the transplant. More research is needed to determine if this a possible solution for all children diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, but this small study leaves doctors extremely hopeful.
What You Can Do
If your child has been diagnosed with IBD, or you are concerned about the gut health of your child, then you’ve come to the right place! At GI Associates, we have a unique department dedicated strictly to children. GI Pediatrics is well staffed with GI specialists who understand how to specifically meet the needs of your child, find the best treatment plan for your family, and wipe away any fears associated with a doctor’s visit. If you have questions, schedule an appointment with us today so that your child can begin to live a healthy and happy life.