Pediatric ulcerative colitis (UC) is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that occurs in children. UC causes redness and swelling (inflammation) inside the large intestine (colon). This inflammation is what causes the major symptoms of UC, which are stomach pain or cramping, rectal bleeding, and diarrhea. Other symptoms may include low energy (fatigue), decreased appetite, joint pain, low blood count (anemia), or liver problems. Children with UC often lose weight or have trouble gaining weight. The exact cause of UC is unknown, but researchers believe it is due to a combination of genetic and environmental reasons. Some cases of UC may be due to the body’s immune system attacking normal cells in the colon (autoimmune disease). UC can occur at any age, but approximately 20% of UC cases occur under the age of 20 in the United States.
Your child’s doctor can diagnose UC by gathering your child’s medical history and performing a physical exam. They may also order blood tests to look for signs of inflammation, x-rays to look at the intestines, and perform stool sample analysis. In addition, your child’s doctor may use a viewing tube to examine the intestines and even collect a small piece of the colon (biopsy). The tube can be inserted through the mouth (called an endoscopy) or inserted through the anus (called a colonoscopy). Although there is no cure for UC, there are options to help manage the symptoms of the condition. There are medications that can reduce the inflammation in the colon and also medications that can reduce the immune response in the body. If the UC is severe, surgery may be needed. Talk to your child's doctor or specialist about the most current treatment options. Support groups are also good source of information and will help connect you with other families.