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Ulcerative Colitis 

Ulcerative colitis, one of the most common forms of inflammatory bowel disease, is associated  with chronic inflammation, or painful swelling, in the large intestine (colon) or rectum. This condition can be a life-altering disease, especially when diagnose din children.

The SLUCare Physician Group pediatric gastroenterologists and hepatologists at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital have extensive experience in treating children with ulcerative colitis. We combine clinical skill and advanced testing to develop the best treatment available for your child.

Working as team with specialists in digestive health, immune health, nutrition, surgery and psychology, we provide safe diagnostics and treatment that is appropriate for your child as they continue to grow and develop.

Signs & Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis affects the  innermost layer of the intestinal wall. This chronic inflammation can wear away areas of the lining of the colon, leaving sores or ulcers. Pail and bleeding is often associated with these sores, causing abdominal irritation and frequent emptying of the colon.

In some instances, it can be difficult to know if your child has ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease, which is a chronic inflammation of any part of the digestive tract, from the mouth to the anus. Both diseases have similar symptoms, including:

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

If your child is experiencing any symptoms of ulcerative colitis, it’s important to schedule an appointment with a pediatric gastroenterologist. Ulcerative colitis prevents the proper absorption of water and nutrients, a crucial component for a growing child’s health.

Other complications of ulcerative colitis can include:

  • Toxic Megacolon: an infection in the large intestine that can cause the colon to burst
  • Arthritis or joint problems
  • Skin problems
  • Anemia (not enough iron in the blood)
  • Osteoporosis (weak bones)
  • Delayed growth

Delayed development is one of the biggest problems associated with UC. Because of this, the gastroenterology specialists at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon prefer to take a proactive approach to your child’s health. If you have any concerns, schedule an appointment with us to ease your fears.

While the exact cause of UC is not entirely understood, researchers do know that irritable bowel disease can be connected to 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 inflammation.

Diagnosing Ulcerative Colitis

Knowing where the inflammation is located along the large intestine helps our doctors accurately diagnose the type of ulcerative colitis your child has.

  • Ulcerative proctitis: inflammation of the rectum / lower colon
  • Pancolitis: inflammation that affects the entire colon
  • Distalcolitis: inflammation of the left side of the colon

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

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

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

Treating Ulcerative Colitis

UC is a chronic condition, which means it can affect your child for a lifetime. Some children will have long periods of remission, going years with very few symptoms. However, it typically comes back at different times throughout their life.

While there is no cure for UC, the right treatment plan can keep symptoms under control and reduce flare-ups. Treatment is heavily dependent on the location of the disease and any other complications your child may have. options:

Therapeutic drugs taken orally or by injection are available as an option for reducing inflammation in the digestive tract, allowing the body to properly absorb nutrients. If medication seems like the best fit for your child’s diagnosis, we will complete a full evaluation, making sure we choose the best option for their condition.

Nutritional therapy, used in combination with medical treatment, plays a vital role in managing UC. Our registered dietician is a great resource for helping to develop a diet plan to meet your child’s health needs.

If your child’s condition does not improve with medication, surgery may be the next stop. The surgical procedure involves removing a section of the intestine to help reduce the inflammation. While it is not a cure, surgery can limit UC’s damaging impact on the intestine.

Follow-up Treatment

Follow-up treatment for Ulcerative colitis is key. Your child’s doctor will need to monitor the medication they are taking, perform follow-up tests, and make sure the treatment plan is working. This may involve:

  • Blood tests to get a better picture of your child’s overall health
  • Endoscopy and imaging to assess the healing process
  • Bone scans to monitor bone density and prevent bone weakening

Our goal is to help your child be free from their symptoms as soon as possible, making maintenance and management an important part of their healing.

Whether you’re looking to schedule an initial evaluation, get a second opinion or receive long-term treatment for your child, rest assured. The trained gastroenterologists at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital deliver some of the most advanced services, all with a compassionate touch. To schedule an appointment, call 314-268-4010. We’ll get your child started on their path to wellness.

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