What is inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a group of conditions where parts of the intestinal tract become irritated or inflamed. IBD may be mild, severe or anywhere in between.

The two main forms of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Some children can have features of both conditions.


The symptoms of IBD can vary from person to person. Symptoms can include:

  • bloody diarrhea or blood in stools
  • abdominal pain
  • fatigue
  • weight loss

Some children may also have:

  • joint pain
  • swelling of the eyes
  • rashes


To diagnose IBD, your child may need to have one or more of the following tests:

  • lab tests, including blood tests or stool tests
  • imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • endoscopy, which uses a thin, lighted tube to “see” inside the intestine


Most children with IBD are treated with a combination of diet changes and medication. Some children with severe IBD may need surgery.

Learn more about Pediatric Gastroenterology services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.

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