Hirschsprung’s disease is a condition in which the nerves of the colon, or the large intestine do not develop properly in a baby, during pregnancy. This results in complications to pass stools. There are severe cases where children cannot have a bowel movement due to an obstructed colon. In such a case, the stools build up in the obstructed portion of the colon, which will expand to an abnormal state. Other cases are so mild that the condition is not detected until later on in life.
It is unclear as to what causes hirschsprung’s disease. It is clear what happens in the condition, but the reason why the nerve cells do not develop is still a mystery.
The symptoms of hirschsprung’s disease vary depending on the severity of the condition. The symptoms may appear when a baby is born, or later on in life. Eighty percent of children show symptoms in the first six weeks of life. The symptoms in newborns are:
- No passage of stool in the first, or second day after birth.
- Vomiting which can contain a green, or brown substance.
- Fussiness due to constipation, or gas.
The symptoms experienced by older children include:
- Swollen abdomen.
- No form of weight gain, or delayed growth.
- Loss of appetite.
The treatment that is administered depends on the extent of the problem. Hirschsprung’s disease is sometimes treated through a surgical operation, in which the affected part of the colon is removed. The surgeon takes the upper end of the intestines through an opening in the abdomen so stools can pass, and be collected into a bag. This can be permanent, or temporary. After healing, the intestines can be reattached to the opening of the anus. Most children pass stools normally after the procedure.
Other factors that determine the kind of treatment are:
- The child’s age, and well being.
- The child’s reaction to certain medications, therapies, and procedures.
- The outlook for the course of the disorder.
Who Is At Risk?
Some children are more at risk than others. They are:
- Males -hirschsprung’s disease occurs in males five times more than females.
- Children who have down syndrome.
- A child that is born into a family where another child has the disease has a three to twelve percent chance of having the disease.
- A child born to a parent who has the disease is likely to have it too, especially if the affected parent is the mother.
Dealing with Hirschsprung’s Disease
Encourage the child to eat fruits, and vegetables along with any other fiber rich foods to prevent constipation. Add them to the child’s diet slowly, but not at once, as doing so might worsen the constipation. Have the child drink plenty of fluids, especially water. If the child has undergone surgery, he or she will experience trouble in absorbing enough water. Drinking more water will help to keep the child hydrated.