Crohn’s disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It causes inflammation throughout parts of the digestive tract, but most commonly, it affects the part of the small intestine that joins with the start of the colon.
According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation (CCF), there are roughly 1.6 million people in the United States living with IBD, with around 70,000 new diagnoses per year. Researchers estimate that of those 1.6 million people, between
The CCF also estimates that as many as 80,000 children may have a form of IBD.
This article will discuss the average age at which people receive a Crohn’s disease diagnosis. It will also compare Crohn’s disease in adults and children and explain whether a person can pass Crohn’s disease onto their children.
Most people who receive a Crohn’s disease diagnosis are between the ages of 15–35 years, although the condition can affect people of any age. This means that the average age at which a person receives a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease is 29.5 years.
There are specific considerations to keep in mind for certain groups of people with the condition. These include children, older adults, and people who can become pregnant.
Learn more about the average age of a Crohn’s disease diagnosis here.
There are several differences in the diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment of Crohn’s disease in adults and children.
According to the CCF, although most people with Crohn’s disease are over the age of 15 years, the condition can affect individuals younger than that.
Moreover, the CCF notes that it is rare for children under the age of 8 years to receive a Crohn’s disease diagnosis. However, a
The CCF also notes that studies have indicated that around 5% of all IBD cases in the U.S. are among people of pediatric age, that is, under the age of 20 years.
Learn how doctors may test for Crohn’s disease here.
Children with Crohn’s disease or any other IBD may experience similar symptoms to those occurring in adults, but there are also several key differences.
This may be because children are more likely than adults to experience symptoms that affect parts of the body other than the intestines, including mouth lesions.
Some of the symptoms a child or adult may experience if they have Crohn’s disease include:
Learn about the early signs of Crohn’s disease here.
Anyone with Crohn’s disease, including children, may benefit from a combination of medication, nutritional therapy, and surgery.
Doctors aim to ease symptoms, reduce inflammation, and improve a person’s well-being. In children, they also want the treatment to improve the child’s growth.
A drug called 5-aminosalicylic acid is available for adults, but it can also help children with mild to moderate Crohn’s disease. In children with more severe symptoms, doctors may try corticosteroids, which are stronger anti-inflammatory medications.
Antibiotics can be helpful for a child with an infection or with certain bacteria in their gut that are contributing to the development of Crohn’s disease.
Biologics can also be effective in treating Crohn’s disease in children and adults. For example, adalimumab (Humira) can help children aged 6 years old and older who have Crohn’s disease.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved vedolizumab (Entyvio) and ustekinumab (Stelara) only for use in adults, but doctors may suggest off-label use for children.
Learn more about different treatments for Crohn’s disease here.
Surgery may be an option for adults or children who have not seen improvements from nutrition or medication.
It may be helpful for a child with Crohn’s disease to understand how to manage the condition on their own as they transition into more independent adulthood.
A person can set up a self-management plan to teach children in their care with Crohn’s disease. The CCF provides the following example of a self-management plan:
|10–13 years||• The child knows they have Crohn’s disease.|
• They are able to name their medication, including how much of it they should take and when, and possible side effects.
• They can express their feelings about how the condition affects their life, including school and social activities.
|14–16 years||• They can identify their medical team.|
• They know their medical history.
• They are aware of how they can get support for their condition in school and the community.
• They know about the risks of taking drugs and drinking alcohol and what happens if they do not follow the treatment plan.
|17–19 years||• The adolescent knows how to get more information on their condition.|
• They make their own doctor’s appointments.
• They can contact a doctor and refill their prescriptions alone.
• They understand insurance coverage and have made plans for the medical, educational, and social support they will need in college or after they move out.
|20–23 years||• The young adult regularly contacts and visits a doctor about their Crohn’s disease.|
• They manage their own medical and psychological needs.
• They are highly independent and understand and make arrangements for their work or college needs.
According to the CCF, families often share a pattern of disease, and 20% of people with IBD have a close family member, such as a sibling, child, or parent, who also has IBD.
The CCF also notes that there is no clear way to understand which family members might inherit the condition.
Learn more about the genetic causes of Crohn’s disease here.
The average age at which a person receives a Crohn’s disease diagnosis is 29.5 years, and people most commonly receive a diagnosis before the age of 35 years.
However, children can also develop Crohn’s disease, and they may experience more severe or wide-ranging symptoms than adults.
People should seek medical advice if they notice in themselves or a child:
- blood in stool
- diarrhea for longer than 1 week
- frequent stomach cramps
- unexplained weight loss
- unexplained lack of growth in children
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but effective treatment can help manage symptoms, allowing people with the condition to lead full and active lives.
It is especially important that children with Crohn’s disease receive treatment as soon as possible, as the condition can lead to delayed growth.