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Diagnosing Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
There is no simple test for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). How this condition affects you may be different than how it
affects another person. Your symptoms can be the same as symptoms of other diseases. That’s why it’s important to see
your doctor if you’ve been having IBD symptoms. Here’s a look at the general process of diagnosing IBD and tests you may
Your first appointment with your doctor will be a lot like a standard checkup. You’ll have a physical exam and talk about
your overall health, family history and current symptoms. In addition, your doctor may order blood work, stool sample
testing and even X-rays to gather more information.
If you need more testing, your doctor may order an endoscopy for a closer look at your digestive tract (the path from your mouth to your anus). These are usually outpatient tests. Your healthcare team will have a plan to help keep you comfortable during the tests. Here are the common endoscopies used in IBD diagnosis:
- Colonoscopy: During this test, doctors use a thin, lighted tube that’s flexible to check inside your rectum and colon. The tube is put in through the anus. In the day or days before your test, you’ll follow your doctor’s plan for how to completely empty out your bowel. During the test, your doctor may do a chromoendoscopy, spraying blue liquid into your colon to make it easier to see if anything is not normal.
- Upper Endoscopy: Again, your doctor uses a thin, lighted tube that’s flexible to explore your throat, stomach and small intestine.
- Sigmoidoscopy: This test is like a colonoscopy, but your doctor uses a shorter tube that only explores the lower colon.
Your doctor may need additional tests to confirm a diagnosis of IBD.
- Biopsy: During an endoscopy, your doctor removes a small piece of tissue for testing and colon cancer screening. This is typically painless.
- Small intestine imaging: Your doctor may order an enterography or enteroclysis for a better look at parts of your intestine that are hard to see during endoscopic testing. You’ll drink something called an oral contrast agent, which is a liquid that shows up on a CT scan, MRI or special X-ray. Sometimes your doctor may even have you swallow a small camera that’s the size of a pill to take pictures as it moves through your digestive tract.
1. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation website. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-crohns-disease/diagnosis-testing. Accessed June 28, 2019.
2. Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation website. https://www.crohnscolitisfoundation.org/what-is-ulcerative-colitis/diagnosis-testing. Accessed July 15, 2019.