PHILADELPHIA – At first glance, Gabriella looks like a happy, healthy child, teaching her sister math and taking care of the family pets.
But she has had Inflammatory Bowel Disease since the age of four.
"She, by that point, was very sick," said her mother, Lisa Didio. "She had really bad diarrhea, loose stools, when she would go, the toilet was filled with blood."
Lisa began searching for a treatment and doctors who could help her daughter.
"This is a very complicated disease where everyone is different than everybody else," explained Dr. Andrew Grossman, pediatric gastroenterologist at Children's Hospital in Philadelphia.
"You have to have a genetic predisposition and with some environmental trigger, which we usually can't figure out on an individual basis."
IBD causes inflammation which then causes ulcers.
Doctors at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia are now using the drug Remicade to treat some patients.
"It was discovered that treatment with this medication which was not initially for Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, resulted in improvement, but unfortunately there was not a 100 percent response rate to this medication," said Dr. Grossman.
Even so, Lisa is relieved Remicade has made a remarkable difference in her daughter, who is now nine years old.
"She's a normal kid again," she remarked. "I mean, she's able to be a child and play. And, she does sports now, and she is back to dancing."
Pediatric alternatives to Remicade include a special diet administered through a feeding tube and immunomodulators, which reduce the autoimmune response leading to inflammation.
Dr. Grossman says each child responds differently to treatment forms, so be sure to check with your doctor.
CAUSES/RISK FACTORS: The exact cause of inflammatory bowel disease is still unknown. Diet and stress had been previously suspected; however, doctors now know that these are aggravating factors but they are not the cause of IBD. One possible cause may be an immune system malfunction. Heredity also seems to play a role as IBD is more common in people who have family members with the disease, but most people with IBD don`t have this family history. Most people are diagnosed with IBD before they`re 30 years old, but some don`t develop the disease until their fifties or sixties. Whites are at highest risk of the disease, and while it can occur in any race, if you`re of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, your risk is even higher. Cigarette smoking is the most important controllable risk factor for developing Crohn`s disease. Finally another risk factor may be where you live; if you live in an industrialized country, you`re more likely to develop IBD. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-bowel-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20353315)
If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at firstname.lastname@example.org or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at email@example.com.