What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease? Inflammatory bowel disease (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. There are two kinds of IBD: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. These diseases have many things in common, but there are important differences: Crohn's disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus (where poop comes out). The inflammation of Crohn's disease damages the entire bowel wall. Ulcerative colitis happens only in the large intestine, or colon. It causes sores called ulcers that affect the inner lining of the colon. What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease? The most common symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease 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. Children with inflammatory bowel disease may not grow as well as other kids their age and puberty may happen later than normal. What Causes Inflammatory Bowel Disease? The exact cause of IBD is not clear. It is probably a combination of genetics, the immune system, and something in the environment that triggers inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Diet and stress may make symptoms worse, but probably don't cause inflammatory bowel disease. 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. How Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Diagnosed? Inflammatory bowel disease is diagnosed with a combination of blood tests, stool (poop) tests, and X-rays. Medical imaging tests, such as CT scans and MRI, might be done too. The doctor will examine a stool sample for the presence of blood, and might look at the colon with an instrument called an endoscope, a long, thin tube attached to a TV monitor. In this procedure, called a colonoscopy, the tube is inserted through the anus to allow the doctor to see inflammation, bleeding, or ulcers on the wall of the colon. During the procedure, the doctor might do a biopsy, taking small samples that can be sent for further testing. How Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treated? IBD is treated with medicines, changes in diet, and sometimes surgery. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent other problems, and prevent future flare-ups. A doctor may recommend: anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease the inflammation immunosuppressive agents to prevent the immune system from causing further inflammation biologic agents to block proteins that cause inflammation nutrition therapy to give the bowel a chance to heal Because some medicines make it harder to fight infections, it's important that your child be tested for tuberculosis and have all recommended vaccines before starting treatment. Surgery may be necessary if: the bowel gets a hole the bowel becomes blocked bleeding can't be stopped symptoms don't respond to treatment What Else Should I Know About Inflammatory Bowel Disease? Poor appetite, diarrhea, and poor digestion of nutrients can make it hard for people with inflammatory bowel disease to get the calories and nutrients the body needs. Children with IBD should eat a variety of foods, get plenty of fluids, and learn to avoid foods that make symptoms worse. Some children may need supplements, like calcium or vitamin D. Kids who are not growing well may need additional nutrition support. Kids and teens with IBD can feel different and might not be able to do the things their friends can do, especially during flare-ups. Some struggle with a poor self-image, depression, or anxiety. They may not take their medicine or follow their diet. It's important to talk to your health care professional if you're concerned about your child's mood, behavior, or school performance. Parents can help teens with IBD take on more responsibility for their health as they get older. The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation is a good resource for more information and support. Back to Articles Related Articles Crohn's Disease Crohn's disease is a chronic condition that causes parts of the bowel to get red and swollen. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms, prevent other problems, and avoid flare-ups. Read More Ulcerative Colitis Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that happens only in the colon. It causes the inner lining of the colon to get red and swollen with sores called ulcers. Read More Immunizations and IBD Vaccines are safe to give to kids and teens with IBD and won't make their symptoms worse. Here are the ones they need. Read More Transition of Care: Inflammatory Bowel Disease Most teens with IBD should transition to an adult health care provider when they're between 18 and 21 years old. Here's how parents can help them do that. Read More Nutrition Therapy and Crohn's Disease Nutrition therapy is an alternative to medicines that doctors use to ease the symptoms of Crohn's disease. It can help improve nutrition and growth, ease inflammation, and heal the gastrointestinal tract. Read More Celiac Disease Kids who have celiac disease, a disorder that makes their bodies react to gluten, can't eat certain kinds of foods. Find out more - including what foods are safe and where to find them. Read More Word! Bowels Bowels are your intestines, and bowel movements are the stuff that's in them (otherwise known as poop). Read More Inflammatory Bowel Disease It's normal to get a stomachache once in a while, but some kids have something more serious called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Find out more about it. Read More Stomachaches Ugh. Bellyaches. Find out what causes tummy trouble in this article for kids. Read More Lactose Intolerance If you have lactose intolerance, you're not alone. Millions of Americans have the condition. Check out these tips on dealing with lactose intolerance. Read More Lactose Intolerance Kids with lactose intolerance have trouble digesting a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy foods. But by making smart choices, they can eat delicious foods without feeling sick. Read More Inflammatory Bowel Disease Inflammatory bowel disease is an ongoing illness caused by an inflammation of the intestines. There are two kinds of IBD: Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Read More Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common intestinal problem that can cause cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation. Certain foods can trigger these problems. So can anxiety, stress, and infections. Read More Digestive System Most people think digestion begins when you first put food in your mouth. But the digestive process actually starts even before the food hits your taste buds. Read More Irritable Bowel Syndrome Having irritable bowel syndrome can make a kid feel awful. The good news is that kids can take steps to feel better. Read More Irritable Bowel Syndrome Some teens get stomachaches and diarrhea often. Read about irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common intestinal disorder that affects the colon. Read More Constipation Constipation is a very common problem that usually happens because a person's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. In most cases, making simple changes can help you feel better. Read More Digestive System The digestive process starts even before the first bite of food. Find out more about the digestive system and how our bodies break down and absorb the food we eat. Read More Constipation Constipation is a very common problem among kids, and it usually occurs because a child's diet doesn't include enough fluids and fiber. In most cases, simple changes can help kids go. Read More Food Allergies Struggling with strawberries? Petrified of peanuts? Sorry you ate shellfish? Maybe you have a food allergy. Find out more in this article for kids. Read More Diarrhea Most kids battle diarrhea from time to time, so it's important to know what to do to relieve and even prevent it. Read More Constipation If you aren't pooping like usual, you could be constipated. Read More Ulcerative Colitis Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that happens only in the colon. It causes the inner lining of the colon to get red and swollen with sores called ulcers. Read More Crohn's Disease Crohn's disease is a condition that causes parts of the intestine (bowel) to get red and swollen. It can be challenging to deal with, but many teens find that they're able to feel well and have few symptoms for long periods of time. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.