Delay in Growth Spurs Pediatric IBD Onset

Symptoms of delayed growth, weight loss, failure to gain weight, or persistent stomach pain coupled with diarrhea or bloody stools in children are often linked to undiagnosed inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), particularly Crohn's disease (CD).

Symptoms of delayed growth, weight loss, failure to gain weight, or persistent stomach pain coupled with diarrhea or bloody stools in children are often linked to undiagnosed inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), particularly Crohn’s disease (CD).

Marc Schaefer, Pediatric IBD specialist, Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, said, “Growth charts are one of the most important things we look at with children because sometimes a slower growth rate is the only sign of IBD, especially with Crohn’s disease.”

Prior research had shown that blood analysis and endoscopy exams can be used to diagnose and differentiate CD from other IBDs, such as ulcerative colitis (UC).

Family history had long been touted as a key factor in IBD diagnoses: “If a family history of IBD is present, there is an increased risk for a child to get it, but it’s not definitive,” said Tolulope Falaiye, MD, also a pediatric IBD specialist.

While no special diet had been revealed to cure IBD, several people had reported specific foods or even a stomach bug to trigger their symptoms.

Current IBD treatment comprises of a variety of pills, oral liquids, injectables, infusions, or enemas in different formulations. Targeted therapies are especially relevant in IBD conditions. Schafer remarked, “We really individualize the treatment and tailor it to each patient. We have to factor in results of endoscopies as well as the severity and behavior of the disease. What might work for one patient may not be best for another.”

The IBD transition clinic at the Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital helps children and caregivers cope with the disease and helps with patient transition between pediatric care and disease management as an adult.

“We always tell families it is a lifelong condition. Even if they are doing very well, they need lab work and endoscopies for monitoring,” concluded Schaefer.