Doctors are diagnosing youngsters with anorexia when in fact they suffer from Crohn's disease, a leading Birmingham doctor told scientists yesterday.
Professor Ian Booth, who lectures in children's health at Birmingham University Medical School, warned that a misdiagnosis of the digestive disorder could delay correct care by months.
Speaking at the British Society of Gastroenterology conference at the International Convention Centre, Prof Booth said children often refused food because they suffered from inflamed digestive tracts or intestines, which was a rare symptom of Crohn's disease rather than anorexia.
Prof Booth said: "We still see cases where Crohn's is sometimes confused with anorexia nervosa.
" One girl's prominent symptom was her refusal to eat. She also had growth failure. She was diagnosed by psychiatrists as anorexic and was admitted for in-patient treatment. She was exposed to a fairly punitive style management of anorexia.
"It was eventually recognised after about six months in hospital that she had small bowel Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease can present as growth failure or sometimes masquerade as anorexia nervosa."