Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) impacts millions of Americans, including adolescents. Crohn’s disease is one of the two types of IBD, which targets any part of the gastrointestinal tract and produces symptoms that can greatly affect adolescents’ school performance and overall quality of life.
Read on to learn about the signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease in teens and how a GI specialist arrives at the diagnosis.
The Unique Challenges Facing Teens with Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease often affects teenagers 15 years of age and older, and it causes unique challenges, such as stunted growth, delayed development and puberty, and weakened bones. Results of a study on the effects of Crohn’s disease on teens show that menarche (first onset of menstruation) began at 16 years of age in 73 percent of female subjects.
Experts at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center state that Crohn’s can affect both male and female teens equally. However, those who have a family history of Crohn’s (such as a parent or a sibling), who are Caucasians, or who smoke are more at risk.
Signs and Symptoms
The following are the common signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease in teenagers:
- Bloody stools
- Changes in bowel habits (persistent diarrhea or constipation or urge to move the bowels)
- Eye inflammation
- Mouth sores
- Overall poor physical development
- Weight loss due to poor appetite and malnutrition
Moreover, like adults, teens with Crohn’s disease can develop fistulas and fissures in the lower GI tract. Fissures are tears in the rectum and anus caused by hard and/or frequent stools. Fistulas are abnormal passageways between the bowel and nearby structures or organs, such as the bladder or vagina.
Diagnosing Crohn’s in Adolescents
After doing a thorough assessment of the patient’s symptoms and medical and family history, a gastroenterologist (GI doctor) will likely use a combination of any of the following methods to confirm a diagnosis.
- Blood tests- to look for high sedimentation rate and other markers of IBD
- Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)- to detect the microscopic presence of blood in the stool
- Sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy- to examine the lower GI tract via lighted endoscope
- Upper endoscopy – to examine the esophagus and stomach with a lighted endoscope
- Capsule endoscopy – to examine the entire GI tract via a swallowed miniature camera
Based on their findings, a GI doctor will devise a treatment plan, which likely includes a combination of medications as well as lifestyle and dietary recommendations. It’s worth noting that there’s no cure for Crohn’s disease, so the goal of the treatment is to essentially manage the symptoms, prevent complications, and achieve long-term remission.
Crohn’s Disease Treatment in California
The board-certified gastroenterologists at inSite Digestive Health Care combine their expertise with advanced technology to provide the highest quality of diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic care for the entire spectrum of gastrointestinal conditions—including Crohn’s disease. We offer the full range of diagnostic services, such as the ones mentioned above, to live up to our commitment to providing comprehensive healthcare services to patients throughout California.
Contact us via our office locator to schedule a consultation with one of our gastroenterologists, Alternatively, you may use this form to request an appointment. We take great pleasure in helping you and your family achieve optimal health and well-being!