Kids Fighting Crohn's

August 20, 2008 8:38:26 AM PDT
Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Crohn's disease is an uncomfortable, even painful condition affecting more than half a million Americans. It's estimated 100,000 children and teenagers in the United States suffer from Crohn's disease. Also called an inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, Crohn's disease causes inflammation, usually in the small intestine. The walls and lining of the affected areas become red and inflamed, leading to ulcers and bleeding. In addition to uncomfortable or even painful bowel movements and associated bowel symptoms, patients with Crohn's often suffer appetite loss, weight loss and rectal bleeding. While Crohn's causes obvious problems for sufferers of all ages, it can be particularly problematic for children and teens. In addition to bothersome and often painful symptoms, the disease can stunt growth, delay puberty and weaken the bones. "[If they] don't ingest enough calories to gain weight or because of the intestinal inflammation, they have a relative malabsorption of nutrients," Howard Baron, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Associates in Las Vegas, Nev., explained to Ivanhoe.TREATING CROHN'S DISEASE: Unfortunately, there is no cure for Crohn's disease in either children or adults. It is a chronic condition, meaning sufferers live with the condition indefinitely. Sometimes, patients may enter remission, but it has not been shown to be permanent. Lifestyle and dietary changes can help, but oftentimes, patients turn to medications to treat the symptoms -- not the disease itself. A number of medications are currently available for adults, but not all of them have been clinically tested in children and, therefore, aren't available for young Crohn's sufferers.

Dr. Baron and fellow researchers tested a drug currently available for adults -- adalimumab (Humira) -- for use in children. "It hopefully stops the inflammatory cascade from creating those signals that cause white blood cells to migrate to the lining of tissues, which starts the inflammation," Dr. Baron said. They are hoping to get the drug FDA approved for use in children as young as five.

"The thing that this medication does that's different from its predecessor is that it allows for a form of the medication that is an injectable form that people can do at home -- almost like an insulin shot to themselves, but even easier than that," Dr. Baron explained. "The predecessor drug mandated an intravenous infusion more than two hours in an infusion center with resuscitation equipment and so forth."

Other drugs available to treat Crohn's disease in children include aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, Immunomodulators and some antibiotics.


Ashlee Seymour
Director of Media Relations
Sunrise Children's Hospital
(702) 731-8288

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