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Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Children

What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a long-term (chronic) condition, which is further separated into Crohn's disease or Ulcerative colitis. Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between Crohn's disease and Ulcerative colitis, leading to a diagnosis of indeterminate colitis.

Researchers believe that IBD is caused by a combination of several factors. Certain susceptibility genes have already been identified for IBD. Most IBD researchers believe that something in the environment (such as a virus) triggers an inflammatory response in the gut. In people who may not have the genetic predisposition, this inflammatory response is self-limited, meaning it resolves on its own. However, in people with IBD, there is genetic influence that maintains the inflammatory response.

IBD can affect parts of the body outside of the gastrointestinal tract, such as the skin, joint, eyes, or the liver.

IBD is not the same as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

What are the symptoms of IBD?

Symptoms can appear at any range, and depending on the type of IBD, symptoms can vary. In general, children with IBD can present with:

  • Diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained fever or tiredness
  • Delayed growth
  • Delayed puberty

For further information on specific types of IBD, please visit the appropriate topics.

General Health Care Management


Children with IBD should receive regularly scheduled vaccinations to help prevent infection, with the exception of live vaccines such as MMR (measles/mumps/rubella), Varicella (chicken pox), and the nasal form of the influenza vaccine.

Medications used in the treatment of IBD may suppress the immune system, so it is important to let your children's healthcare provider know about any medication.

Related Topics


University of Rochester Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Division