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The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Frequently Asked Questions About Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Experts at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital welcome the opportunity to provide a second opinion on the diagnosis or management of your child's inflammatory bowel disease. Our gastroenterologists are at the forefront of IBD clinical care and research. In addition, we work closely with leaders in a variety of specialties, who consult and provide care as needed. Our team will help you understand your options so that you can choose the best treatment plan for your child.

The exact cause of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis is unknown. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that genetic predisposition -- along with environmental factors and an abnormality in a person's immune system – plays a role in the development of inflammatory bowel disease. As a result, these diseases tend to cluster among relatives. Our experts specialize in providing care for families in which multiple members (often across several generations) have been diagnosed with IBD.

Although the risk of IBD is higher for people who have a sibling or parent with the disease than it is for the general public, it does not mean that your other children will develop it. If you notice these symptoms, please discuss these concerns with your child's pediatrician.

No, IBD and IBS are very different. IBS is an acronym for irritable bowel syndrome, a functional gastrointestinal disorder. In IBS, the structure of the colon -- including appearance on colonoscopy and biopsy -- looks normal (that is, the inflammation that occurs in inflammatory bowel disease is not evident), despite causing uncomfortable symptoms such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, gas and/or bloating. Irritable bowel syndrome does not cause extra-intestinal symptoms or long-term damage to a person's colon. Some patients with IBD also have IBS.

We recognize that every child's needs are different and there is no "right" time to begin the transition of care from a pediatric to an adult gastroenterologist. Often, the process begins in late adolescence, when the child leaves for college or moves out on his/her own. Our Transitional IBD Clinic -- one of the few in the country – is designed to meet the unique needs of teens and young adults ages 15 to 21. Our goal is to create a bridge between pediatric and adult care by providing the tools and support that our young adult patients need in order to take a more active role in IBD management. For patients who attend college out-of-state we will help identify a local physician that we can partner with to provide ongoing care. Our team will work closely with both the your child and the local gastroenterologist to ensure continuous and comprehensive care. When patients are ready, we will facilitate transfer of care through our Transitional IBD Clinic directly to one of our adult IBD specialists. For patients leaving the Chicagoland area, we can provide referrals through our network of IBD specialists across the US and around the world.

The Child Life and Family Education Program at Comer Children's provides support for children of all ages with inflammatory bowel disease. Our child life specialists are trained in childhood development and use this knowledge to provide age-appropriate educational, developmental and therapeutic services to help children adjust to the challenge of living with a chronic disease.

The University of Chicago Medicine also offers a monthly support group for patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Older teenagers and young adults are welcome to attend the meetings, which occur the second Monday of every month.

In addition to our internal resources, many families find support through the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America. (Please note, we provide this link as a service to our site visitors. The University of Chicago Medicine is not responsible for information or services provided on external websites.)