The emerging global epidemic of paediatric inflammatory bowel disease--causes and consequences

J Intern Med. 2016 Mar;279(3):241-58. doi: 10.1111/joim.12413. Epub 2015 Sep 10.


Two decades ago, paediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) drew only modest interest from the international paediatric community. Since then, dramatically globally increasing incidence rates have made childhood-onset IBD a priority for most paediatric gastroenterologists. The emerging pandemia of paediatric IBD has fuelled a quest to identify the recent changes in early life exposures that could explain the increasing risk for IBD amongst today's children. Treatment of children with IBD should aim for symptom control but should also target restoration of growth and prevention of pubertal delay. The paediatric IBD phenotype seems to be characterized by more extensive disease location, and some comparative studies have suggested that childhood-onset IBD also represents a more severe phenotype than the adult-onset IBD form. In this review, we analyse recent global incidence trends of paediatric IBD. We present an update on the known and suggested risk factors that could explain the emerging global epidemia of paediatric IBD. We also draw attention to differences in treatment between children and adults with IBD. Finally, we highlight latest follow-up studies that question the proposed dynamic and aggressive nature of childhood-onset IBD.

Keywords: Crohn's disease; epidemiology; growth; inflammatory bowel disease; ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Epidemics*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / classification
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / etiology
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / therapy
  • Risk Factors