What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

It's normal for all kids to get bellyaches once in a while. But some kids get bad stomach pain all the time. They are tired and even feel like they might throw up. Some of these kids may have what's called inflammatory bowel disease (or IBD).

IBD is a condition that causes parts of the intestine (bowel) to get red and swollen. It's a chronic condition, which means it lasts a long time or constantly comes and goes.

What Are the Types of IBD?

There are two kinds of IBD: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (say: UL-sur-uh-tiv keh-LYE-tis). Both cause inflammation (say: in-fluh-MAY-shun) and, often, ulcers in the intestinal (say: in-TES-tuh-nul) tract. Ulcers are tears or breaks in the lining of the intestines that can cause pain or bleeding.

What Happens in IBD?

Crohn's disease causes all layers of the intestinal wall to become sore, inflamed, and swollen. It can affect any part of the digestive tract, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and anus.

Unlike Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis inflames only the inner lining of all or part of the colon and rectum. Sometimes, only the rectum is affected.

In both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, inflammation may stick around for many years, flaring up over and over again.

What Are the Signs of IBD?

The most common symptoms of IBD are belly pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms include:

  • blood in the toilet, on toilet paper, or in the stool (poop)
  • fever
  • low energy
  • weight loss

Inflammatory bowel disease can cause other problems, such as rashes, eye problems, joint pain and arthritis, and liver problems.

Who Gets Inflammatory Bowel Disease?

IBD tends to run in families. But not everyone with IBD has a family history of the disease. Inflammatory bowel disease can happen at any age, but is usually diagnosed in teens and young adults.

What Do Doctors Do?

If you have any of the symptoms of IBD, you'll need to see your doctor. The doctor will examine you and ask you about any concerns and symptoms you have, your past health, your family's health, any medicines you take, any allergies, and other issues.

The doctor might order blood tests, stool (poop) tests, X-rays, and other tests.

How Is IBD Treated?

If someone has IBD, the doctor may recommend a diet that is low in fiber, fat, and dairy products. He or she may also prescribe medicines to reduce inflammation and help prevent infection.

Sometimes, surgery is necessary. Kids with ulcerative colitis can be cured by having their large intestine removed. There is no cure for Crohn's disease, but surgery often helps by removing parts of the bowel that are affected.

What's Life Like for Kids With IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease is not a disease that kids will outgrow. However, many kids have long periods, sometimes years, with no symptoms.

Some kids with IBD miss a lot of school. Those who get painful cramps, frequent diarrhea, or feel like vomiting have a hard time sitting through classes or riding a bus to and from school. Some who aren't getting the nourishment they need may go to the hospital where nutrients are fed to them through an IV.

In some cases, kids with IBD who grow or mature slowly may be treated with growth hormones.

Friends and classmates should treat kids with IBD just like any other friends. It's nice to be sensitive and willing to listen when someone with IBD wants to talk. Simply talking about their illness can sometimes help kids with IBD feel a lot better about things.

The best thing that kids with IBD can do is take good care of themselves, exercise, take their medicines, and eat foods that will make them grow strong. By managing their IBD, kids with this condition can lead regular lives.

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