Ulcerative Colitis | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed in children?

Diagnosing ulcerative colitis begins with an examination and a detailed medical history. Your child’s clinician will rule out other possible causes and may recommend one or more of the following tests:

  • blood tests
  • stool sample tests
  • endoscopy
  • colonoscopy
  • video capsule endoscopy
  • MR enterography
  • biopsy
  • imaging studies

Megan, who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, taking a selfie with a camel.

Once you have an accurate diagnosis, the goal is to get your child on the road to proper care and management of pediatric ulcerative colitis — and, most importantly, to start feeling better as soon as possible.

How is ulcerative colitis treated?

With consistent ulcerative colitis treatment and a good understanding of the condition, the vast majority of children with the condition go on to live full and active lives. Depending on the severity of symptoms, treating ulcerative colitis often requires a combination of approaches:

Medication

Drug therapy can reduce inflammation and control symptoms. Ulcerative colitis medications may include:

  • anti-inflammatory drugs, such as steroids, to bring the disease under control
  • immune system suppressants that can reduce swelling
  • antibiotics to treat related complications, such as abscesses or fistulas
  • antiulcer/H2 blockers (acid-reducing medications) to treat related ulcers and irritation
 

Nutrition support

All of our patients have the option to meet a registered dietitian who will develop an ulcerative colitis diet to help control your child’s symptoms and improve health.

Surgery

A percentage of children, adolescents and young adults with ulcerative colitis, who do not respond to or have significant side effects to medications, may need surgery. Surgical treatment includes removal of the colon, also called the large bowel (colectomy), and the creation of an internal “J” shaped reservoir (J-pouch) in either two or three surgical procedures called “stages,” which based upon the particular situation may include:

  • Ileostomy: A surgically-created temporary opening on the abdomen. The end of the small intestine is brought through this opening to form a stoma. A pouch (or ostomy bag) is worn over the stoma to collect stool and is emptied multiple times a day.
  • Ileoanal J-Pouch: This procedure is the creation of an internal J-pouch from the small bowel, which then is connected to the anus. It allows elimination of stool through the anus after removal of the colon. After all the surgeries, the stoma is gone and it is possible to go to the bathroom the “normal way.”