Are Children With IBD At Risk For Stunted Growth?

Several Factors Can Contribute To Changes In Growth For Kids With IBD

Group of friends sharing a meal.
Growth in kids with IBD needs to be monitored closely. Image © Gary John Norman / Getty Images

Kids with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) face a host of growth complications. Normal growth in kids with IBD can be adversely affected by such factors as intestinal inflammation, malnutrition, reduced calorie intake, and medication side effects.

One such concern is that the bone growth in kids with IBD may lag behind that of children of the same age who do not have IBD. To learn more about how one's height as an adult may be affected by IBD in childhood, I turned to UpToDate -- a trusted electronic reference used by many physicians and patients looking for in-depth medical information.

"Because children with pubertal delay usually have delayed bone age, some catch-up growth is possible after the onset of puberty. However, growth during puberty may also be compromised in those with prolonged inflammatory disease, malnutrition, or corticosteroid therapy, so adult height may be affected."

Several factors adversely affect the adult height of a child with IBD, including long-standing, active disease; poor nutrition; and taking steroid drugs such as prednisone to reduce inflammation.

Proper Nutrition and Remission

In order to combat these factors, care must be taken to ensure that children with IBD receive proper nutrition and get their disease under control as quickly as possible. Achieving remission during puberty is an important part of helping ensure that bone growth and growth spurts occur at a more normal rate.

Altering Treatment Plans

Using medications other than steroids whenever possible is another strategy that may help preserve bone growth in children with IBD.

When steroids are needed, taking them every other day (instead of every day) and reducing the dosage as quickly as safely possible are also used to help preserve bone health in children. (If your child is currently on steroids, do not change his or her dose without talking to their physician.) It is well-known that steroids adversely affect bones, and can even lead to osteoporosis.

Minimizing the effects that IBD has on a child's growth can ensure that children who have IBD have the best chance at achieving a normal growth rate and adult height.

Want to learn more? See UpToDate's topic, "Growth failure and poor weight gain in children with inflammatory bowel disease," for additional in-depth medical information.


Teitelbaum, Jonathan E. "Growth failure and poor weight gain in children with inflammatory bowel disease." UpToDate.  6 Oct 2015.

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