Crohn’s disease can develop in children younger than 15 years old. Here are the symptoms of the disease to look out for in your child.
Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that commonly affects people between 15 and 30 years of age. However, it can also affect children younger than 15 years old. About 20 to 30 percent of all people with Crohn’s disease develop symptoms before they reach 20 years old.
- Blood in the toilet, on toilet paper or in stools
- Abdominal tenderness
- Weight loss
- Sores or drainage around the anus
- Mouth sores
Less common symptoms include:
Moreover, Crohn’s disease may cause delays in the growth of affected children, including sexual development.
What are the complications of Crohn’s disease in children?
Children with Crohn’s disease may not be able to gain weight and instead experience weight loss. This is because the condition usually causes them to:
- Eat less or avoid eating.
- Skip some (or maybe many) of their favorite foods.
- Become nutritionally deficient due to the inflamed digestive system causing malabsorption.
Crohn’s disease may also cause other complications in children such as:
- Fistula (abnormal connections between loops of the intestine or between the intestine and nearby organs such as the vagina or around the anal region)
- Fissures (tears in the anus)
- Intestinal obstruction (a life-threatening condition due to scarring and narrowing of the inflamed intestine)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Anemia (a low red blood cell count or low hemoglobin level in the blood)
- Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones)
- Skin problems
- Liver problems
- Kidney stones
- Restless leg syndrome (a nervous system disorder where a child keeps moving their legs often due to pain in that region)
What causes Crohn’s disease?
What exactly causes Crohn’s disease is not clear yet. Doctors and researchers believe the condition is most likely caused by a combination of genetics, the immune system and environmental factors that initiate and further trigger inflammation in the digestive tract.
The risk of Crohn’s disease is overall low. However, children with a family history of the disease are at risk more than other children with no family history.
Children of Jewish ancestry have a higher risk of the condition than those of other ethnicities.
How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed in children?
Your doctor will ask you questions regarding your child’s signs and symptoms and perform a physical examination, including a rectal examination. They will ask questions such as if anyone in your family has Crohn’s disease.
To find out whether your child has Crohn’s or another condition causing their symptoms, the doctor will order tests that include:
- A stool test
- Blood tests
- A computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the abdominal area
- X-rays of the intestine
- Colonoscopy (inserting a thin, flexible tube fitted with a lighted camera into the colon through the anus)
What can I do to help my child live with Crohn’s disease?
Since Crohn’s disease is a long-term condition, it will come and go at various times during your child’s life. Due to their illness, your child may suffer emotional, physical and social problems. Because of this, you must work alongside your child’s healthcare provider to treat and manage their disease.
Have your child’s provider check their health regularly, which includes checking their: