Skip to Document Content

Crohn's Disease

Crohn’s disease is affiliated with a group of conditions known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It’s a condition associated with chronic inflammation (swelling and redness) in the digestive tract, causing ulcers, pain in the belly, weight loss and frequent diarrhea. Some of these problems can have a significant impact on your child’s life, requiring immediate treatment and regular management.

At SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital our SLUCare Physician Group pediatric gastroenterology and hepatology specialists are some of the top in their field. Their combined experience and clinical skills make them a destination for parents seeking relief for their child with Crohn's disease (CD). Our efforts coincide with specialists in digestive health, immune health, nutrition, surgery and psychology, helping us provide safe diagnostics and treatment appropriate for your growing and developing child.

Signs & Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is one of the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), affecting any part of the digestive tract from the mouth to the anus. In some instances, it can be difficult to know if your child has CD or Ulcerative Colitis, an inflammation of the colon. Both diseases have similar symptoms including:

  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloody stools
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats

If you or your child’s doctor suspect CD, it’s important to see a pediatric gastroenterologist. Crohn’s disease prevents the proper absorption of water and nutrients, which is crucial for a growing child. It may also lead to:

  • Inflamed joints (arthritis)
  • Skin problems
  • Inflamed eyes (uveitis)
  • Inflamed mouth
  • Kidney stones
  • Gallstones
  • Problems with the liver or bile ducts
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Blood clots, very rare

A child can also experience complications from the disease such as a bowel obstruction, fistula, or abscess.

While the exact cause of Crohn’s disease is not entirely understood, researchers do know that IBD involves an interaction between genes, environmental factors, and the immune system. Foreign substances, or antigens, in the environment may directly cause inflammation, or they may activate the body's defenses to produce this inflammation.

Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease

Irritable bowel disease is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 35, however toddlers and pre-teens can also show symptoms of Crohn’s disease. After reviewing your child’s medical history and performing a physical exam, we might conduct the following tests:

  • Blood tests
  • Stool sample
  • Endoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Biopsy
  • Imaging studies

From there, we’ll work closely with you and your child to determine the next steps in medical care.

Treating Crohn’s Disease

While there is no cure for CD, the right treatment plan can help your child manage their symptoms and reduce flare-ups. Depending on the severity of the disease, we might recommend some additional treatment options.

Therapeutic drugs, taken orally or by injection are an option for reducing inflammation in the digestive tract. These can also help the body properly absorb nutrients.

Nutritional therapy, used in combination with medical treatment, plays a vital role in managing Crohn’s disease. Our registered dietician is available onsite to guide you through developing an eating plan to optimize your child’s health and promote healing.

Surgery may be a viable option, especially if your child’s condition does not improve with medication. This surgical procedure involves removing a section of the intestine to help reduce inflammation. While it is not a cure, surgery can limit Crohn’s disease from further damaging the intestine. If surgery becomes a part of your child’s treatment plan discussion, our pediatric gastrointestinal surgeons will work closely with you.

Managing Flare-Ups

Flare-ups are the reappearance of symptoms of irritable bowel disease, despite treatment. If your child starts feeling tired and unwell, they may very well be having a flare-up. When this happens, it’s best to speak with their pediatric gastroenterologist immediately.

Follow-up Treatments for Crohn’s Disease

Managing Crohn’s disease is a lifelong process. Your child’s doctors need to monitor the medication they’re taking, perform regular follow-up tests, and make sure the treatment plan is working as it should. This maintenance plan may involve:

  • Blood tests to get a picture of your overall health
  • Endoscopy and imaging to assess the healing process
  • Bone scans to monitor bone density and prevent bone weakening
  • Eye exams (Crohn’s disease can cause inflammation of the eye)

Our goal is to help your child be free from their symptoms as soon as possible. This may require testing and changes to the treatment plan as they grow and develop.

Your child’s diagnosis doesn’t have to end there. When you work with an SSM Health Cardinal Glennon gastroenterologist you’re working with the best. Let us care for your child and help them get back to being a kid again.

Select Location