Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis

September 8, 2022
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
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As difficult as ulcerative colitis can be for adults, the symptoms of pediatric ulcerative colitis can be especially uncomfortable and disruptive for children. As a parent or other family member of a child living with this condition, we understand you want to do whatever you can to help take away the pain and stress that your little one is dealing with. The good news is that while ulcerative colitis tends to be more aggressive in children, symptoms can still be successfully managed.

A good starting point for any treatment journey is knowledge, which is why we’re happy to share the following informative guide. By learning more about this disease and the options for treatment and care, you can help your loved one find relief and a healthier and more active childhood.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that affects the colon, also known as the large intestine. When this condition develops, it causes inflammation, sores, and ulcers on the lining of the colon and rectum. This typically results in debilitating symptoms and bowel dysfunction.

When this condition affects younger patients, known as pediatric ulcerative colitis, the effects can be especially distressing. According to doctors, pediatric ulcerative colitis has a tendency to affect a larger part of the intestine and can be associated with developmental problems and more serious complications.

There are several types of ulcerative colitis that are dependent on which part of the colon becomes inflamed. Pancolitis describes inflammation of the entire colon, distal colitis is partial inflammation on the left side, and ulcerative proctitis is when the condition is limited to the rectum.

Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis Causes

As doctors and researchers work to understand the causes of pediatric ulcerative colitis, there is evidence that it is a type of autoimmune disease. With ulcerative colitis, the immune system begins to attack healthy cells in the lining of the colon. Potential underlying sources may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors, but in many cases the causes are unknown.

Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis Risk Factors

Some of the most common risk factors for ulcerative colitis include:

  • A family history of the condition
  • Environmental and dietary factors, such as living in an urban area or consuming a high-fat, heavily processed diet
  • Taking certain anti-inflammatory medications, which can also exacerbate symptoms and cause flare-ups

Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis Symptoms

Symptoms of pediatric ulcerative colitis can vary, but often include:

  • Abdominal pain and cramping, particularly on the left side
  • Diarrhea, due to an inability of the inflamed intestines to absorb water
  • Bloody stool as a result of bleeding of the colon wall
  • Persistent bowel urgency
  • Loss of appetite

Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis Complications

Complications, especially in children, can include developmental or growth problems due to the lack of appetite and inability to absorb nutrients. In severe cases, bleeding and a perforated colon can develop, resulting in a medical emergency and the need for immediate treatment.

Diagnosing Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis

To confirm ulcerative colitis as the source of painful symptoms and bowel dysfunction, doctors can perform the following steps:

  • Review your child’s and family’s medical histories
  • Have a detailed discussion of symptoms and how they are affecting daily activities
  • Perform a physical examination
  • Order diagnostic testing, including a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, X-ray, MRI, blood test, and stool tests

Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis Treatment

While there is not a cure for ulcerative colitis, doctors will usually recommend a combination of medications, including anti-inflammatories, biologics, and immune system suppressors, to reduce inflammation, pain, and support healthy bowel function. In some cases, dietary changes and nutrition counseling may be recommended.

If symptoms remain debilitating despite medication and there is severe intestinal inflammation, a surgical procedure may be recommended. This can involve both partial or total removal of the intestine and a bypass directly to the rectum for stool removal, or through a surgically created opening.

Caring for a Child with Ulcerative Colitis

Regardless of specific treatment, children with ulcerative colitis generally have extensive care needs. From administering medication to adjusting to new nutritional guidelines to recovering from surgery, meeting these care needs can be a substantial challenge for many families. In these situations, a pediatric home health professional can be a key member of your extended treatment team.

Pediatric home health services are able to fill a wide range of care needs for any family or range of severity for IBS conditions, including pediatric ulcerative colitis.

Contact Care Options for Kids for Home Health Care in Florida

It can be hard to balance your time between work, home, and caring for a child. That’s why our team of professionals at Care Options for Kids is here to help. We have been enforcing precautionary measures and following the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) guidelines for COVID-19 to ensure the safety and health of our clients and employees.

Our home health care services offer support in the comfort of your home. We refer loving and competent nurses to provide customized care for families — from a few hours a day to around-the-clock supervision. Contact us directly to speak with a home health care professional or request a free in-home assessment. Together we can determine the best plan of action to keep your loved ones happy and healthy.

If you or a loved one are considering Pediatric Home Health Care Services in Florida, contact the caring staff at Care Options for Kids. Call today at (888) 592-5855.