Pediatric Intestinal Disorders
Pediatric intestinal disorders cover a wide range of injuries and conditions that impact a child’s intestines.
The small and large intestines (colon or bowel) are part of the digestive system. About 90 percent of the digestion and absorption of nutrients occur in the small intestine. Disorders or injuries to the intestines can cause pain, disrupt digestion, slow development, or create life-long or life-threatening complications.
Intestinal disorders can result from a number of conditions. Each condition has its own cause and average age of diagnosis. The disorders can occur for many reasons, and include:
- Autoimmune response (body attacks healthy cells)
- Congenital (present at birth)
- Environmental (cigarette smoke or drinking household cleaners)
- Genetic/hereditary (passed down through families)
- Unknown triggers (idiopathic)
There are several types of intestinal disorders, including those noted below. They can be found in the small or large intestine only, or in both.
Large intestine disorders
- Colonic polyps – also known as colorectal polyps or colon polyps; these are tissue masses in the colon or rectum that can become cancerous.
- Colorectal cancer —benign or malignant tumors in the colon and rectum.
- Diverticulitis — inflammation (swelling) or infections of diverticulosis pouches, located in the colon. Occurs when colon wall muscles weaken and lose elasticity (ability to expand/contract) due to continual stress from hardened stools. This also includes congenital Meckel’s diverticulum.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) — also known as spastic colon, this condition is associated with bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas and pain.
- Ulcerative colitis — a form of irritable bowel disease (IBD) where the intestinal lining becomes inflamed.
Small intestine disorders
- Adenocarcinoma – starts in the cellular lining of the small intestine and is the most common type of small intestine cancer.
- Celiac disease — a painful, immune system reaction that occurs when the child eats gluten (protein found in barley, rye and wheat).
- Intestinal malrotation — a congenital disorder where the intestines rotate incorrectly and are mainly found on the right side.
Small and large intestine disorders
- Bleeding – a general disorder caused by ulcers, cancer, diverticulitis or polyps. Surgery may be necessary to determine the cause of the bleed.
- Crohn's disease — an inflammation of the digestive system. It affects any area of the intestines from the mouth to the anus, but often impacts the lower section of the small intestine (ileum).
- Infections – can be viral, bacterial or a parasitic, including gastroenteritis (inflammation in the stomach and small intestine) and tapeworms.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) — when a child has inflammation of the digestive tract. Most common types are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Intestinal atresia (IA) – occurs when a child’s intestine doesn’t properly form during development and prevents food and bowel movements from properly moving through digestion stages.
- Obstructions (blockages) — happen for several reasons, including damaged sections from Crohn’s disease or diverticulitis, hernias, medications and scar tissue. Obstructions can also prevent food from digesting and bowel movements.
The type of condition defines the symptoms. Symptoms will appear at various ages, locations and range in severity. Children can experience one or more of the following:
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Bleeding, including leaking out from rectum or in stool
- Bloating or abdominal distention (larger accumulation of gas or fluid; more severe than bloating)
- Cramping and pain
- Fatigue (feeling tired)
- Heart defects
- Loss of appetite
- Other, corresponding disorders in organs (liver, spleen)
- Skin issues, including acne, eczema, psoriasis (red lesion covered in flaky skin) and rosacea (red patch with pus-filled bumps)
- Slow or delayed growth
- Unexplained weight loss
- Vomiting or spitting up