This Is How These Chronic Illnesses Present In Children

Chronic illnesses in children are every parent’s worst nightmare. Nobody wants to think about them because it’s horrible to imagine youngsters suffering or people treating them… Darren Ryding - February 14, 2024

Chronic illnesses in children are every parent’s worst nightmare. Nobody wants to think about them because it’s horrible to imagine youngsters suffering or people treating them differently. However, it’s also a parent’s responsibility to care for their loved ones. If they can spot the early signs of a chronic disease or disorder, it can change their child’s life.

Let’s look at some of the most widespread chronic illnesses and disorders to see how they present themselves in children. Some of these conditions are rarer in children than in adults but they do occur. Many of them are very manageable so it’s not all doom and gloom. Most people can even live healthy lives if they have enough family and medical support.

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Endocrine Society

Childhood Cancer

Many forms of cancer may present themselves in children. These can be some of the most serious chronic illnesses but don’t despair. Treatments are advancing rapidly and most cancers have a high chance of survival if we catch them early. Bumps and bruises are one of the earliest signs of cancer in children.

Sometimes they may suffer unusual bleeding or unexplained fevers. Leukaemia and brain cancers are two of the most common types that children receive. Usually, they show signs of weakness and weight loss with the former. Meanwhile, brain cancer often causes nausea and dizziness (via Better Health).



This is one of the most liveable chronic illnesses on this list. Many people have Type 1 diabetes throughout their entire lives. One early sign is that children ask for drinks more often than usual and can’t quench their thirst. They may also wet the bed regularly and suffer from fatigue.

Some children also suffer from Type 2 Diabetes but the signs develop slower. Parents should bring them to a doctor if this unusual behavior continues. The medical professional will perform a blood glucose test and advise the next steps. Diabetes can be life-threatening if it progresses but it shouldn’t reach this point. (via


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Children’s Mercy


Here’s another of the world’s most common chronic illnesses. Many people live with asthma across the globe. They enjoy healthy lives because they have access to inhalers that even allow them to play sports. Asthma usually presents itself in children before the age of five. However, it can develop at any age so be aware.

Often sufferers will complain of chest tightness and they may have coughing fits. Shortness of breath is another widespread sign that something is amiss. Seek medical help if they have an asthma attack before diagnosis because it can be severe. Also, avoid polluted areas with poor air quality (via Cleveland Clinic).



Experts prefer to refer to ADHD as a disorder rather than a disease. Nonetheless, it is a chronic condition that presents itself in young children. The signs are often obvious because they’ll have difficulty sitting still or concentrating. Some may talk excessively while others can react aggressively when things upset them.

Patience is one of the most important things to remember when dealing with an ADHD child. Doctors may recommend behavioral therapy or even medication in serious cases. Schools should provide support for ADHD sufferers too. Premature babies have a higher rate of ADHD than other infants (via Healthline).


ET Healthworld


Before we describe how HIV is present in children, let’s start with the good news. These days many effective HIV medications prevent the disease from progressing to full-blown AIDS. Sufferers can live a normal life with access to these game-changing medications.

The main signs of this condition in children are slowed growth and developmental delays. Some may also have enlarged lymph nodes across the body. HIV is very rare in children unless their parents already have the disease or they’ve touched a dirty needle. Mothers can transmit it before birth or during breastfeeding. (via Verywell Health)

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Very Well Family

Chronic Kidney Disease

Usually, chronic kidney disease occurs because of birth defects. However, it can develop in teens and young children from high blood pressure. This will prevent the kidneys from working properly as the child grows. It’s crucial to catch this early because it’s treatable. Don’t leave it too late to do something about it.

This is one of those chronic diseases that can lead to more problems like heart disease or even bone disorders. Many children with this condition struggle with learning and concentration. They may also have low self-esteem. Symptoms include fatigue, high blood pressure, and a decreased appetite (via NIH).

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Verywell Family

Vision Loss

It’s a reality that many children will experience vision loss that requires them to wear glasses. This isn’t the problem that it once was because now there are contact lenses and laser treatments available. But it’s important to be able to notice if a child is having trouble seeing clearly.

Children may hold items closer to their faces than appears normal because they’re trying to see details. They may also sit closer to the TV than normal. Clumsiness is also a common symptom because they don’t notice items or obstacles around them. Take them to an optician if this behavior develops (via Raising Children).

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Stanford Medicine

Ulcerative Colitis

This inflammatory bowel disease is very uncomfortable and can compromise the immune system. Both children and adults can develop this condition so it’s good to spot the signs. Youngsters may complain of stomach pains and appear more tired than normal. More serious symptoms include rectal bleeding and bloody diarrhea.

Take them to a doctor immediately if the latter signs develop. Most chronic illnesses aren’t a big deal if we diagnose them and know how to deal with them. Usually, IBD sufferers must watch their diet and may take medication. Surgery is necessary in more serious cases but it’s usually possible to avoid that (via Nationwide Children’s).

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Epilepsy Ireland


Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes sufferers to have seizures. Many parents find this frightening because they don’t know what’s happening. The body may go stiff or suddenly produce jerky movements. Meanwhile, they may have trouble breathing, and their eyes could go blank or blink rapidly.

Doctors may perform blood tests and neurological exams to discern the cause. In some cases, they may recommend surgery but they may just give dietary advice and medication. There are different levels of severity so it’s important to know what’s best for the child. That’s the case for all of these chronic illnesses (via Hopkins Medicine).

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Neurology Advisor

Multiple Sclerosis

Childhood MS is unusual but it does sometimes occur. However, this is one of the most difficult chronic illnesses to diagnose. It affects the central nervous system and can emerge in sudden attacks. Sufferers may endure relapses throughout their lives. Children can show fatigue, blurred vision, and numbness amongst other symptoms.

This sounds scary but the good news is that very few children have progressive MS. Furthermore, physical disabilities are slower to develop than in adults. It’s not a condition that anybody wants to deal with but it’s important to understand. Then we can learn to deal with them in the most effective way (via MS Trust).

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Penn Medicine


Many chronic illnesses and disorders are hereditary so it’s vital to know family history. That’s especially true in cases like hemophilia because it’s potentially lethal if things go wrong. This condition prevents the blood from clotting so bleeding lasts longer and happens easier than usual.

Historically, this affected many royal families because of their close intermarriages. Signs of hemophilia include excessive bleeding, a dark stool, and severe bruising around muscles. Haemophilia also typically affects more boys than girls but it can occur in both. Factor replacement therapy is the main treatment for hemophilia. (via Royal Children’s Hospital)

Times of India


Many chronic illnesses are more common in adults than in children. This is true in the case of glaucoma which rarely presents in youngsters. However, the majority of underage cases occur in infants so it will probably happen early. Glaucoma is when the eyes’ fluids fail to drain properly.

Sometimes it can be hereditary but this isn’t always the case. Common symptoms include sensitivity when we suddenly go from darkness to bright light as well as excessive tearing. Another strange sign is that one eye may seem bigger than the other. Early treatment will produce better results so act quickly! (via Boston Children’s Hospital)

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Parenting Hub


This is easily the most common learning disorder and affects 20 percent of American children so it’s very normal. Dyslexia is a neuro-cognitive condition that affects people’s ability to read, spell, and even speak languages. Young children may struggle to learn nursery rhymes and confuse letters when spelling.

One positive is that stigmas around dyslexia are reducing and many successful people have this condition. There are even studies that suggest that some dyslexic people have higher IQs. Meanwhile, there’s loads of support for dyslexia including speech therapy and phonological technology (via

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Lyme Disease

A bulls-eye-shaped rash is one of the most common signs of Lyme Disease. Also, some children may experience weakening facial muscles that make it difficult to control them. Mothers can pass this to their baby before birth but it’s extremely rare. Usually, it happens because of a tick bite when they play in long grass.

Doctors can treat it completely if they catch it early enough. Otherwise, it will develop into one of the most persistent chronic illnesses. However, they can live healthy, active lives with the right medication and understanding. UFC fighter Jim Miller is one of the most high-profile athletes with Lyme Disease now (via Cedars-Sinai).

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Healthy Place

Bipolar Disorder

This chronic disorder is unusual in very young children because it usually develops in teenagers. Mood swings are the most obvious sign of bipolar disorder. They may be very happy and vibrant for a period before suddenly feeling extremely sad or hopeless. It’s very challenging for parents to deal with so seek expert help.

One of the biggest early red flags is if children start sleeping less. This can be more noticeable than mood swings so keep an eye on them. Medication is one of the most common ways to deal with bipolar disorder. Psychotherapy may be helpful in some cases too to help stabilize their emotions (via Children’s Hospital).

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Life Hacker


Doctors refer to depression as a disorder rather than as a disease. Nonetheless, it’s a chronic condition that can affect children and adults. They may show physical signs as well as changes in behavior. Children may think that they are bad and that the world doesn’t want them anymore.

This is very difficult for parents to deal with because they often feel inadequate. That’s why they should seek medical help and counseling as soon as there is a diagnosis. Sometimes children may complain of headaches and fatigue because depression can have physical side effects (via Health Direct).

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Congenital Heart Disease

It’s important to catch chronic illnesses quickly so that doctors can help individuals live long and fulfilling lives. This is especially true in the case of CHD. Chronic heart disease is scary but the overwhelming majority of children will survive to adulthood. Luckily, modern technology is making incredible advances.

Doctors can usually identify CHDs in the womb when they perform an ultrasound. Sometimes children may have other issues like a cleft lip. On average, CHD sufferers only live for four years fewer now than people with healthy hearts. Doctors usually prescribe heart and kidney regulators to help the body work efficiently (via SCAI).

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Cystic Fibrosis

Most chronic illnesses present symptoms before doctors diagnose them. But that’s not the case with cystic fibrosis. Usually, hospitals perform screenings that identify the condition in infants. However, sometimes it doesn’t develop until the child grows older. Then they’ll present some of the following signs.

They may have chronic diarrhea and salty skin. Furthermore, they’ll probably suffer from frequent pneumonia and sinus infections. Cystic fibrosis shares symptoms with other conditions but it can also cause bigger problems too. Always consult a doctor if there are any worries (via Nationwide Children’s).

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Shriners Hospital

Spina Bifida

This condition also presents itself in children from birth so doctors will spot it easily. Many parents fear that their newborn infant will never be able to walk. However, this is no longer true in many cases because of advances in technology. Stay hopeful because things are constantly improving!

Medical experts will immediately begin treatment when they diagnose spina bifida. The spine and spinal cord don’t develop properly so this affects their ability to stand properly or move. They may require walking aids but sometimes physical therapy can help them to move independently (via Spina Bifida).

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Child Neurology Center

Cerebral Palsy

This is another disorder that affects a person’s ability to move properly. Usually, doctors identify it earlier but it may take a couple of years for the signs to become clear. The baby’s brain development has problems in the womb and this reduces the oxygen supply.

Infants may show difficulties when they’re crawling or sitting. They will probably have difficulties when they learn to walk and struggle to do so properly. Doctors will monitor them when they think that a child has cerebral palsy. There are different levels with various treatments depending on their needs. (via Cerebral Palsy Guide)