IBD is commonly known as an “adult condition.” So why has there been a significant increase in the number of children diagnosed with IBD? According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), about 100,000 children under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with this lifelong disease in the United States. This rate has approximately doubled over the past 10 years. Pediatricians have now, more then ever, become more attentive to properly identifying IBD in young patients. Does IBD affect a child’s life?
Simply put, yes. Along with the burden of symptoms that stem from IBD, children are affected in other ways as well. A child’s education can be impacted as a young person suffering from severe symptoms could miss a significant amount of school days. Serial absences could lead to questions from teachers and classmates, who may not understand IBD or may be unsympathetic to your child’s health issues. These reactions could negatively affect your child’s self-esteem and reduce their desire to return to school.
IBD also affects a child’s growth pattern. Growth impairment and poor linear growth is frequently observed among IBD patients under the age of 16 with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. According to the CCFA, approximately one-third of children with Crohn’s disease and one-tenth of children with ulcerative colitis have a less than average adult height because of their IBD. Some children also experience difficulties in gaining weight while others tend to be overweight and obese.
How can the effects of IBD be minimized?
Proper nutrition is key. Paying close attention to nutritional intake is essential to staying healthy. It is important that your child eats foods that are beneficial for growth, while avoiding items that may cause IBD symptoms to act up. In addition, growth hormones are an option for children who experience slow maturity. Anti-inflammatory medications are another alternative that can help reduce symptoms. If a child and their parents work hard to properly manage an IBD diagnosis, they will have the best opportunity to live a regular lifestyle.