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What are the Chances My Children Will Inherit Ulcerative Colitis Or Crohn's Disease

Updated on December 16, 2017
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At 17, Angela was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. At 20, her colon was removed. She has a passion to share her knowledge of the disease.


Is Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's Hereditary?

Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are hereditary diseases known as inflammatory bowel diseases or IBDs. A child who has a sibling or a parent with an IBD has a twenty percent chance of being diagnosed with one of these in their lifetime. At this time, it is impossible to genetically test who is going to get the disease or who will not; they have not yet identified a gene that causes IBDs. Unlike most diseases, these are so interrelated that, if a parent or sibling has either ulcerative colitis or Crohn's, their relative is just as likely to have Crohn's or ulcerative colitis.

If both parents have these diseases, the likelihood drastically increases up to an eighty percent chance of having one or the other. Do not let this scare you. Just because the disease is hereditary, does not mean a child will have it to the same degree as their parent. Some people are able to control their disease through diet, while others will eventually need surgery in order to place it in remission. The severity is not determined by heredity.

A picture of a colon with a small ulceration.
A picture of a colon with a small ulceration. | Source

What Age Do People Tend To Get Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis?

Unfortunately, just as you cannot predict how severe a child's disease will be, you may not be able to tell they will have the disease until they are adults. Crohn's, unlike ulcerative colitis, is common to appear in all age groups equally,although most people are diagnosed before thirty-years old.

Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, has a high tendency to show up at two different times in one's life, although can appear at any age. Most people have their first symptoms in their teens or twenties. Although young children can be diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, most are not until their late teens. Few people discover they have the disease while they are in their thirties or forties. The likelihood increases when a person is between fifty to sixty-five years old. The reason for this is unknown, although shifts in hormones may play a part in the higher propensity for flares, since these are two likely ages where hormone changes do occur.

What Races are Most Likely to Have an IBD?

Since the disease is genetic, some races are more apt to be diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease than others. Asian or African descents are unlikely to have either of these diseases, while lighter complected people tend to have a much higher probability, with caucasians having the highest tendency. Also those who have Jewish ancestry have a higher likelihood than non-Jewish ancestry to have an IBD. Although some races are more apt to have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's, anybody of any race can be diagnosed with either one of these diseases.

Does Where You Live, Make You More Apt to be Diagnosed?

Racial factors are not the only indicator of likelihood of being diagnosed. Also where you live, may play a role. According to the Mayo Clinic, those who live in urban or industrialized countries have a much higher risk than those who live in more rural areas. This may be in part due to the pollution that is present in urban and industrialized areas, making our cells not be able to heal as well, due to the pollutants. Also, those who live in urban and industrialized areas, tend to have a diet that is lower in fiber, higher in protein and fat. Fiber helps promote good digestive health, so diets high in fiber are less apt to become diseased. Another reason they are more apt to be diagnosed is because those that live in urban and industrialized countries have more access to health care and doctors; therefore, their symptoms do not go unnoticed.

Does Accutane Cause IBDs?

Some people believe that we cause illnesses by the foods we eat or even the medicines we ingest. One medication that has been rumored to cause IBDs is Accutane. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is actually unknown. Due to the big controversy, since there were some studies that stated there was a correlation, they have discontinued this acne brand, although you can still find it under the names: Amnesteem, Claravis and Sotret. There have been many other studies that have not shown any correlation; therefore, if you are already at risk, you should proceed with caution. The active medication in Accutane is isotretinoin.

Does Stress Cause These Diseases?

Another misconception is that stress causes IBDs. Stress does not cause a disease to appear, but stress can cause a disease to flare-up. This is true no matter if the disease is intestinal or any other part of the body. The disease is caused by a gene, which means, stress cannot cause a disease to appear that is not already present in a person's body. On the other hand, stress can cause a disease to have symptoms appear that may not have presented themselves without the stressor.

Just as physical stressors can cause a flare, so can allergens, which are stresses to the body. IBD's are believed to be irritated by an allergen that gets into the digestive tract. When the allergen is detected the intestinal tract overreacts in those who have an IBD and as the body fights against the allergen, it also fights against itself. This overreaction may be increased by someone who is under a lot of stress.

No one will be able to predict whether their child will have an IBD, nor can they cause a child's illness to be less severe. If you believe your child is showing symptoms of the disease, it is important to have them checked by a doctor to assure they have a healthy digestive system.

© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz


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    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 6 years ago from United States

      I'm glad to help.

    • profile image

      reflux 6 years ago from USA

      Thanks for this hub. Its really knowledgeable hub.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Thanks for the great information! All of that seems to coincide what I read in 2002, but I didn't know if the statistics were still accurate, and must have chose to leave them out! Thanks for adding to my article. I appreciate your comment.

    • profile image

      LorianNina 7 years ago

      Thank you for the great article and the great info.

      I am a person who likes numbers, so I just wanted to share the numbers I was able to find on this topic:

      The info I have found indicates that: (according to info at, cited below)

      The worldwide incidence rate of ulcerative colitis seems to vary greatly between 0.5–24.5/100,000 persons, while that of Crohn’s disease seems to vary between 0.1–16/100,000 persons, worldwide.

      And also that: (according to info at, cited below)

      About 20 percent (1 in 5) of people who have Crohn's disease have a blood relative with some form of inflammatory bowel disease, usually a brother or a sister, and sometimes a parent and child.

      There appears to be a risk for inheriting Crohn's disease, especially in families of Jewish ancestry.

      Children who have one parent with Crohn's disease have a 7 to 9 percent lifetime risk of developing the condition. They also have a 10 percent chance to develop some form of inflammatory bowel disease. When both parents have inflammatory bowel disease, the risk for their children to develop Crohn's disease is 35 percent.

      I'm sorry that I could not find as much info for UC.

      [ Sources:


    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Very good information. Good hub.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Having suffered from severe case of ulcerative colitis that has led to 10+ surgeries, BM 20+ times a day, I will say it didn't ruin my life. I think we have to watch our attitude no matter what our bodies do. We can let it ruin our lives, but we can force ourselves to enjoy life despite. It can affect our lives so tremendously, but only us, ourselves, can ruin our lives.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 7 years ago from Wrightwood, California

      Good informative Hub; these disorders can really flare-up and ruin a person's life if they are not controlled. Good job!