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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What are the symptoms of Crohn's disease in children?

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  • 1


    Prof Andrew Day


    Paediatric Gastroenterologist View Profile

    Crohn disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) can present in children of any age. There is a small peak of diagnosis in preschool children. Most children and adolescents are diagnosed in early teenage years.

    The most common symptoms of CD in children and adolescents tend to be diarrhoea, weight loss and abdominal pain. In contrast the most frequent symptom in UC is bloody diarrhoea. However, there is lots of cross over between these symptom patterns.

    Although most children diagnosed with CD or UC have some combination of these main symptoms, others can present with other bowel/tummy symptoms, and others can present with symptoms not directly related to the gut.

    Some other gut symptoms include mouth/lip symptoms (e.g. mouth ulcers, lip swelling,  cracks at the side of the lips and others), dififculty swallowing/vomiting, liver problems and changes around the bottom (e.g. abscesses, fissures, and other problems).

    Some children present with skin problems, some present with poor growth (just not getting taller) and some have eating problems. These less specific symptoms tend to be recognised less: and sometimes children have them for longer before someone thinks about the possibility of CD or UC.

    Overall growth is very commonly disturbed in children with these diseases - almost all children with CD have weight loss or poor growth. At least half of children with UC also have these issues. These are really important issues: these are the years that children and adolescents have to grow. When growth is poor, this can lead to delayed puberty and in the end can interfere with the normal expected growth of the young person.

    In conclusion, CD and UC can present with a range of symptoms in children and adolescents. The pattern of symptoms can include the more common symptoms, but can include a range of other symptoms also.

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