Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease characterized by inflammation and swelling of the inner lining of the large intestine (colon). Over time, repeated inflammation can cause deterioration if the inner colon, resulting in ulcers and lesions. There are many different types of ulcerative colitis that can present in children. Sometimes the inflammation is only isolated to the lower colon and rectum (ulcerative proctitis) or to the left side of the colon (distalcolitis). Many times, however, the disease affects a child’s entire colon – a condition known as pancolitis. Doctors and researchers are unsure of what causes ulcerative colitis in children. However, it is known that multiple factors including– genetics, environment and immunity – play a role in whether a child develops the disease and what triggers flare-ups.
Did you know…
Many people confuse this condition for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is a much less severe disease that causes pain but does not have inflammation seen in IBD. Children who develop IBD may also be at risk of other conditions, such as arthritis, liver disease, eye diseases, and skin diseases and may often require routine evaluations.
A child with an ulcerative colitis flare-up may complain of severe abdominal pain. Often, the disease causes chronic diarrhea, which may contain blood from the lesions within the colon. Some children with ulcerative colitis experience long periods of remission between flare-ups, while others suffer with symptoms more frequently.
Diagnosing ulcerative colitis in a child typically requires various GI tests and lab testing. These may include stool tests, blood tests, colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. In some cases a child may need to undergo more detailed screenings. For example, a child may be asked to swallow a pill containing a camera that captures images of the mucosa through the digestive system.
The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, and ensure a child is receiving adequate nutrition. While most children with ulcerative colitis will need to manage the condition for their entire lives, at WNY Pediatric Gastroenterology, we will work with the child and family to optimize individual treatment to maintain remission. Medications are available to help prevent auto-immune reactions and reduce inflammation. In some cases, a patient with ulcerative colitis may require surgical intervention.