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Kids With Crohn's Disease, Colitis Often Struggle at School: Study

FRIDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Children with inflammatory bowel disease may have difficulty in school due to frequent absences that are largely the result of mental struggles such as depression rather than the disease itself, a new study finds.

Researchers from Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, had students aged 11 to 17 years with and without inflammatory bowel disease -- which generally takes the form of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis -- answer questionnaires about their mental health, school functioning and quality of life. Schools provided report cards and school absence information.

Children with the condition missed more days of school than healthy kids, and those who missed lots of school had lower grade point averages, according to the study.

Kids with inflammatory bowel disease were also at risk of "internalizing" problems, such as depression, according to the study. Kids who were struggling more mentally also tended to have more absences.

"Youth with [inflammatory bowel disease] are at increased risk for depression, so the finding that internalizing problems are associated with school absence is a particular concern with important implications," said lead study author Laura Mackner, an investigator in the hospital's Center for Biobehavioral Health, in a hospital news release.

The study recently appeared in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease include abdominal pain, fatigue and diarrhea. Children may be prescribed corticosteroids, which may affect learning and memory, or have to take intravenous medication requiring hours in an infusion clinic, according to Dr. Wallace Crandall, director of the hospital's Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Inflammatory Bowel Disease.

"Both [inflammatory bowel disease] and its treatment have the potential to disrupt school functioning," Crandall said in the release.

The study authors noted that most of the children studied were in remission or had only a mild form of the disease, so it's unclear if their findings would apply to children with more severe cases.

More information

Nemours has more on inflammatory bowel disease.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Nationwide Children's Hospital, news release, Feb. 14, 2012

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