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Crohn's Disease Health Center

Crohn’s Disease in Children and Teens

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What causes Crohn’s disease in children and teens?

The cause of Crohn's disease is not known. It is likely that Crohn's is an inherited disease that causes an abnormal response of the immune system in the gastrointestinal tract.

People who have a relative with Crohn’s disease are more likely to develop the disease themselves. People of Jewish ancestry also have a greater risk for the condition. Still, the risk of getting Crohn's disease is low.

How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

The doctor will review the patient’s medical and family history. Various tests are used to diagnose Crohn’s disease, including the following:

  • Endoscopy (such as colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy): During this procedure, a doctor inserts a flexible, lighted tube with a camera in the rectum. The tube and camera together are called an endoscope. It’s used to view the inside of the rectum and colon. Colonoscopy shows a greater portion of the colon than sigmoidoscopy does. A small sample of tissue may be taken for testing, or biopsy.
  • Blood tests: When testing the blood, the doctor will look for signs of anemia, or a high white blood cell count. A high white blood cell count indicates inflammation or infection somewhere in the body.
  • Barium X-ray (barium enema or small bowel series): These procedures use X-rays to examine the upper or lower intestine. Barium coats the lining of the small intestine and colon and appears white on an X-ray. This allows the doctor to review any abnormalities.

 

How is Crohn’s disease treated and managed in children and teens?

Treatment of Crohn's disease depends on how severe it is and where it’s located. The disease can sometimes go into remission on its own. So it’s not always possible to determine whether a specific treatment has been effective. When Crohn’s disease is active, treatment is aimed at controlling inflammation, correcting nutritional deficiencies, and relieving symptoms such as pain, diarrhea, and fever.

In general, medications are the first step in treating Crohn’s disease in children and teens. Some of these drugs include anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, antidiarrheals, and immune-suppressing drugs (including corticosteroids). For those patients who have nutritional deficiencies, supplements are often prescribed. There are also some studies researching dietary modification including an all liquid diet.

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