No parent likes to imagine that their child may have a digestive problem, but digestive disorders are more common in children than some might expect. Up to 15% of children suffer from digestive issues that range from mild to severe and can significantly affect the health and wellbeing of their young lives. In this post, we’ll explore the symptoms and treatment of digestive disorders in children, as well as the long-term effects of the condition.
Types of Childhood Digestive Disorders
Common types of childhood digestive disorders include gastroesophageal reflux (GER), Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, and ulcerative colitis. Each disorder has its own set of symptoms, including tummy aches, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and vomiting. Depending on the type of digestive disorder, children can also experience abdominal cramps, acid reflux, and weight loss.
Diagnosing Childhood Digestive Disorders
Diagnosing childhood digestive disorders can be difficult since the symptoms can vary from one child to the next. To determine the cause of a digestive disorder, doctors will perform a physical exam, ask about the child’s medical history, and order laboratory tests. Common tests for digestive disorders include stool sample analysis, X-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans.
Treating Childhood Digestive Disorders
Once diagnosed, the treatment of a childhood digestive disorder depends on the condition. GER and IBS are usually treated with dietary and lifestyle changes, such as reducing the intake of foods that can trigger the symptoms, such as spicy or fatty foods. Medications can also be used to manage the symptoms, such as antacids or acid-suppressing medications for GER.
More severe digestive disorders such as Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis may require stronger treatments such as immunochemotherapy and steroid medications. Surgery may be necessary in some cases if the disorder does not respond to medications.
The Long-Term Effects of Childhood Digestive Disorders
The effects of childhood digestive disorders can extend beyond the immediate symptoms. Some children may experience long-term growth and development issues due to the nutritional deficiencies caused by the condition. Additionally, the emotional stress of living with a digestive disorder can affect the child’s social and psychological development.
It’s important for parents of children with digestive disorders to ensure that their child receives the highest level of specialized care. Working with a qualified pediatric gastroenterologist can help ensure that children receive the best treatment possible and get the support needed to manage their condition.