About Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic

About Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

The Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Clinic at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, has been designed specifically to help patients manage ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Over 1.4 million people in the US have IBD.

  • Of kids who have IBD, boys are just as likely as girls to have it
  • Of kids who have IBD, most are likely to live in northern climates (such as COLD Wisconsin)
  • 2 recent presidents had IBD, including John F. Kennedy
  • Many professional sports players, including those in the NFL, NBA and the Olympics have IBD.

Although IBD can be painful in many ways, people have overcome the challenge and become very successful.

What is IBD?

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are two examples of Inflammatory Bowel DiseaseInflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition in which your gastrointestinal (GI) tract gets chronically inflamed. Inflammation leads to ulceration, swelling, bleeding and narrowing of your digestive tube.

The disease is called chronic because it is an ongoing situation. There are two main types of IBD: Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In Crohn’s disease, any part of GI tract can get inflamed. In ulcerative colitis only the large intestine (or colon) gets inflamed.

What causes IBD?

We do not exactly know what causes IBD, but we think that the combination of an abnormal immune system, genes that you have inherited, bacteria living in your gut, and things we are all exposed to in the environment are responsible.

Your immune system normally protects you against disease, but in patients with IBD, the immune system starts overworking. Instead of protecting the intestine, the immune system attacks it and causes inflammation. We do not know what makes your immune system work too hard to cause IBD. IBD is not an infection and is not contagious.

Tests and Procedures

  • Blood work: It’s important to get blood work done on a regular basis to make sure that IBD is under good control. Blood work (sometimes called lab work) also helps the doctor decide if you’re on the right amount of medication. If you take medications like Humira, Remicaide, 6-MP or Azathioprine, you’ll need to have your labs checked four to six times per year. Your pancreas, liver and production of the white blood cells can be affected when you take these medications.
  • Colonoscopy: To diagnose IBD, a doctor will need to do a procedure called a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows a doctor to look at the entire inside of the large intestine (colon) with a special camera while you are asleep. The camera is a flexible tube called a scope. The scope allows the doctor to look for redness, swelling, ulcers and infection of the intestines. The doctor can also use the scope to take tiny pieces of the intestines to send to the lab for more testing. This is called a biopsy and will help to make the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s. A colonoscopy also helps to monitor for disease activity in kids with known IBD.
  • EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy): Upper endoscopy, also called an esophagogastroduodenoscopy (that's why it’s called an EGD for short) allows a doctor to look at the upper part of the GI track, including the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. An EGD is also done with a special flexible tube called a scope, which has a camera and a light on it. The scope allows the doctor to look at the inside of the esophagus, stomach and small intestine to diagnose and to monitor IBD. Just like with a colonoscopy, the doctor can use the scope to take tiny pieces of tissue to send to the lab, to examine under a microscope. None of these procedures hurt because you’re asleep and don’t remember any of it.
  • PillCam: Doctors can use a PillCam to look at the inside of the GI track. A PillCam is a little pill capsule that has a hidden camera inside. It’s pretty cool! You swallow the PillCam and as the capsule travels through the intestines, the camera takes pictures that are sent to a recorder on the outside of the body. The pictures can then be downloaded to a computer. When the procedure is all done, the PillCam naturally comes out with a bowel movement.

IBD Affects Other Organs

IBD can affect organs other than the bowels. Eye problems, joint pain, canker sores, fevers and rashes can all be part of IBD. Active disease can also slow down a person’s growth and delay puberty, but this doesn’t happen if IBD is well controlled or in remission.

People with IBD can also have anemia because they lose blood in the stool. Anemia can make you feel tired and can be made better by taking iron supplements. Tell your doctor if you are feeling tired all the time.