Understanding Ulcerative Colitis in Children

A chronic, inflammatory disease

Ulcerative colitis (UC) belongs to a larger group of illnesses called inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). It is associated with inflammation of the large intestine (colon and rectum) in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.

Although the exact cause of pediatric UC is not fully understood, research shows that it could be the result of several factors, such as genetics, the environment, or an immune system problem.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic—or long-lasting—disease that can worsen over time if left untreated. Fortunately, there are medicines available that may help patients, like your child, experience symptom relief and achieve remission.

Inflammation and the immune system

Inflamed intestines icon

Inflammation is our immune system’s way of protecting us from bacteria, viruses, and other potentially harmful substances. In people with UC, the immune system mistakenly attacks the inner lining of the large intestine. This results in excess inflammation that can lead to the symptoms of UC.

Although it isn’t known for sure what causes the excess inflammation, too much of the protein TNF alpha may be to blame. Our immune system naturally produces TNF alpha, but people with UC may be producing too much of it.

Understanding ulcerative colitis symptoms in children

Because UC is a chronic disease, your child’s symptoms can change or worsen over time. Children can go through periods when they experience few or no symptoms, known as remission, as well as periods when symptoms can become more frequent and intense.

If your child is experiencing symptoms, even while being treated for UC, it could be time to talk with your child’s doctor about a different treatment.

Common symptoms your child may be experiencing

The symptoms of UC can vary over time and often depend on the level of severity. It’s best to work with your child’s doctor to determine the severity of your child’s condition.

Children with UC may also be affected by age-related issues, including problems with gaining weight, slowed growth, short stature, or delayed puberty.

Common symptoms of pediatric UC include:

  • Diarrhea with blood
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • An urgent need to have a bowel movement
  • Feeling tired
  • Nausea or loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Anemia—a condition in which the body has fewer red blood cells than normal (this is something your doctor is able to diagnose with a blood test)

Remission: the goal of pediatric UC treatment

The goal of UC treatment is remission—few or no symptoms. If your child is taking medication for UC and still experiencing symptoms, talk to their doctor about other treatment options that may help. 

HUMIRA, a biologic, blocks TNF alpha, a source of inflammation that may be contributing to your child’s UC symptoms. At your child’s next appointment, ask your doctor if treatment with HUMIRA may be able to provide symptom relief and remission.