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Pediatric Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in which the lining of the large intestine (colon or bowel) and rectum becomes inflamed. In children, inflammation usually begins in the rectum and lower (sigmoid) intestine and spreads upward to the entire colon unless effectively treated.

The inflammation causes diarrhea, or frequent emptying of the colon. As cells on the surface of the lining of the colon die and slough off, erosions (open sores) form, causing pus, mucus and bleeding. The disease affects the body’s ability to absorb fluid, which is the major role that the large intestine plays in digestion.

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic condition that may recur at various times over a lifetime and requires long-term medical care. There may be remissions – periods when the symptoms go away – that last for months or even years. However, symptoms occasionally return (these periods are called flares).

Children may experience physical, emotional, social and family problems because of the disease, increasing the importance of proper management and treatment.

Emotional and Social Care for Children with Ulcerative Colitis

Children with ulcerative colitis (UC) face emotional and social difficulties and the effects of their condition will be experienced by their whole family. Families will have to get used to unexpected changes to routines to accommodate their child with UC. It is important for each family member to learn to support the child with UC while keeping the whole family’s needs in mind.

Some emotional responses your child with UC may have include:

  • Mood swings due to illness and medications
  • Blaming self for disease
  • Frustration with physical problems
  • Feeling different from others
  • Anger and questioning “Why me?”
  • Worry about appearance, slow growth or weight loss
  • Vulnerability of not being able to rely on normal body functions
  • Unable to keep up with healthier friends

Social problems may include:

  • Coping if classmates tease
  • Embarrassment over frequent bathroom use
  • Peer pressure regarding food choices
  • Handling others’ lack of understanding about their condition
  • Change in physical stamina
  • Change in ability to concentrate on schoolwork

In addition to caring for your child’s medical issues, Children’s National provides the following services to ensure a comprehensive approach:

  • Formal education about UC, including disease process, medications and nutrition
  • Nutritional support provided by a registered dietitian
  • Social work support for community resources
  • Assistance with insurance as needed
  • Access to behavioral health services as needed
  • Collaboration with your child’s school nurse to ensure continuity of care
  • Evaluation and treatment with respect to the surgical indications and approaches for inflammatory bowel diseases, including UC and Crohn’s disease.
Children's Team

Children's Team


Ian Leibowitz

Ian Leibowitz

Division Chief, Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition Services
Children's National Hospital

Primary Care
Vahe Badalyan

Vahe Badalyan

Director, Celiac Disease Program
Clarivet Torres

Clarivet Torres

Director, Intestinal Rehabilitation Program


Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program

Our pediatric gastroenterology experts provide comprehensive services for children with IBD, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.

Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Our gastroenterology experts provide expert diagnosis and treatments for children with digestive, liver and nutrition disorders.