When you give birth to a new baby, the last thing you are thinking about is the fact that they could have a congenital medical condition. However, sometimes this is the case. Hirschprung's disease is one such congenital condition that may be present when a child is born. Get to know more of the facts about this congenital condition that may affect your child in infancy or later in their childhood so that you know what to look out for and what to expect if they are diagnosed.
The Exact Nature of Hirschsprung's Disease
Hirschsprung's disease is a congenital condition that affects the large intestine (also referred to as the colon). When a person suffers from this disorder, all or a portion of the colon is lacking the nerve cells that are necessary to trigger the large intestine to contract and move waste through it and out of the body.
The exact reason that these nerve cells are missing is unknown as of right now, but it has to do with the nerve cells in the body ceasing to continue growing as they should when a baby is still in utero. Because Hirschsprung's disease makes it so the entire colon or a portion of it cannot function properly, constipation and an inability to pass solid waste out of the body properly is the main characteristic of this disease.
Common Symptoms of Hirschsprung's Disease
In newborns and infants, the most common symptom of Hirschsprung's disease is the inability to defecate (pass fecal matter). If a newborn has not done so within the first 24 to 48 hours after birth, doctors may begin checking for conditions such as Hirschsprung's disease and other bowel obstructions, malformations, or other issues.
If a child only has a partial case of Hirschsprung's disease, they may not be diagnosed right away because they can at least partially process solid waste. However, as your child gets older, they may begin to need laxatives or other medications to be able to pass stool. They might also suffer from diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, swelling in the abdomen, or other issues like chronic fatigue and growth or development issues.
The Treatment Options For Hirschsprung's Disease
Hirschsprung's disease is treated primarily with surgery. The portion of the large intestine that does not function will need to be removed from your child's body to make it so they can pass fecal matter from their body. The issue, of course, is that prior to diagnosis, your child may develop an intestinal infection due to the blockage and the buildup of waste inside the intestines.
If your child has an infection, the temporary solution is to perform an ostomy surgery. This involves the surgeon creating an opening in the abdomen known as a stoma though which waste can leave the body and be drained into a bag. The bags will need to be changed regularly to get rid of the waste and maintain hygiene (prevent further infections). The ostomy surgery allows your child the time to recover from their infection and become stronger so that they can handle the bowel removal operation.
When the portion of the colon that is affected is removed, your child will be able to pass stool. However, depending on how much of the large intestine was removed, they may have lifelong dietary restrictions to prevent problems and will likely need to drink extra fluids and take supplements to make sure they get the hydration and nutrients necessary to live a healthy life.
Now that you know more about Hirschsprung's disease and how it can be treated, you can better handle the situation if your child is affected by this condition. Click here to learn more about quality health care.