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What is Hirschsprung's Disease?

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Hirschsprung’s disease affects the colon and causes bowel movement issues, states Mayo Clinic. Although the cause of this condition has not been determined as of 2015, it occurs when nerve cells in the colon do not adequately form.

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The most discernible symptom of Hirschsprung’s disease in a newborn is the inability to have a bowel movement within 48 hours after birth, according to Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms in a newborn include diarrhea, swollen belly, constipation, gas and vomiting. Older children with Hirschsprung’s disease may show signs such as fatigue, failure to gain weight, chronic constipation, swollen belly and gas. Males and individuals with Hirschsprung in their family history have a higher risk of acquiring Hirschsprung’s disease. Hirschsprung’s disease is also associated with Down syndrome, multiple endocrine neoplasia and inherited heart conditions.

Doctors use an abdominal X-ray, a manometry test or a colon tissue biopsy to diagnose Hirschsprung’s disease, explains Mayo Clinic. Treatment requires surgery to strip the diseased part of the colon away and attach the normal colon to the anus. Most children are able to pass stool normally after this procedure, but toilet training may be delayed. The risk of bowel infection is high during the first year after surgery.

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