The number of children and young people seeking treatment for inflammatory bowel disease has more than trebled in the past decade, according to consultants at Our Lady's Children's Hospital, Crumlin.
A decade ago the hospital in Dublin treated between 30 and 40 under- 16s with the condition annually, however, last year it diagnosed around 100 cases.
According to consultant Seamus Hussey, Ireland now has one of the highest incidences of paediatric inflammatory bowel disease in the world.
Dr Hussey said: "In children the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease has increased three to four-fold in the last ten years. Between 2000 and 2010 we diagnosed just over 400 children with the condition, in the last two years we diagnosed 196."
The two most common types of Inflammatory bowel disease are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
Dr Hussey said the hospital had seen a seven-fold increase in children under 10 with the most severe and extensive form of ulcerative colitis.
Dr Hussey said that while it is difficult to establish the exact cause in any one case, a number of risk factors have been identified, including a child's genes, their environment and what they consume.
He said: "We know that children with lots of antibiotic exposures in early childhood are at increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.
"We also know that children with inflammatory bowel disease have a tendency to have eaten more unfavourable or unhealthy diets but it’s very difficult to be very specific about those issues, because it is such a multifactorial condition."
Dr Hussey said there are no dedicated protected services for treating the condition at the National Paediatric Centre for Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which is based at Our Lady's Children's Hospital.
"We have to make do with whatever resources the hospital is left with, so for example we don't have a dedicated IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) dietician, an IBD psychologist and we have very, very limited paediatric IBD nurse specialists to support children for the country.
“So in the end of the day, without those resources it’s very difficult to manage this complicated condition for children, teenagers and their families."