Symptoms and Signs of Crohn's Disease in Children and Teens

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/29/2021

Doctor's Notes on Crohn's Disease in Children and Teens

Crohn’s disease (also termed Crohn’s disease) is a chronic inflammation of any part of the digestive tract, although it usually involves the terminal small bowel, cecum, and anus. It is diagnosed mainly in people aged 13-30 years but may occur at any age. The most common signs and symptoms in children and teens include 

  • diarrhea with mucus or pus,
  • cramp or steady pain in the right lower abdomen (sometimes relieved for a short time by a bowel movement),
  • pain or bleeding with a bowel movement and, in some individuals, 
  • bloating after eating, 
  • constipation, and/or
  • infections of the anus, urinary tract, or vagina (caused by fistula formation).
  • Some may develop skin problems (erythema nodosum - raised red bumps especially on lower legs), mouth ulcers, and eye inflammation.

The following general symptoms may occur in some patients; fatigueanemiaweight loss, low-grade fevers, and delayed growth.

The exact cause of Crohn’s disease in children and teens is unknown. Theories suggest it occurs due to a combination of genetic (familial), environment, diet, blood vessel, and/or psychosocial factors that cause the disease. Some researchers theorize the immune system is the cause of overreacting to a virus or bacterium infection.

What are the treatments for Crohn’s disease in children and teens?

Treatments of Crohn’s disease may involve medications, surgery, and/or dietary changes, often involving combinations of treatments. The following are the general treatment components used:

  • Medications (mainly by IV)
    • Steroids – slow disease progression
    • Immunosuppressive drugs – weakens immune response that can contribute to disease symptoms
    • Biologic drugs – may block or reduce inflammation
  • Surgery - bowel resection to remove a diseased segment of the GI tract and reconnect healthy segments (used if perforation of the GI tract happens or if medications fail)
  • Diet changes - General symptom reduction by consulting with a pediatric nutritional expert to get a “best fit” diet for a growing child

Your child’s doctors can design a treatment that specifically meets your child’s needs.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.