Diagnosing Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's Disease, Digestive Health, Featured Article
on September 13, 2011
Woman in bathroom with stomach pain

Crohn’s disease is considered a fairly difficult disease to diagnose because many of the symptoms closely resemble other types of inflammatory bowel disease. In addition, the outward symptoms are associated with quite a number of different diseases, so it may take some time for a doctor to pinpoint the exact issue. Once potential Crohn’s is detected, a number of tests will be needed in order to confirm the presence of the disease. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America explains, “There is no single test that can establish the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease with certainty.” Most physicians will run a panel of tests, which will serve to eliminate other possible diseases while confirming the diagnosis of Crohn’s disease.

Presentation of symptoms. A number of symptoms immediately point doctors in the direction of inflammatory bowel disease, including persistent and possibly bloody diarrhea, loss of appetite, anemia and symptoms that suggest an infection where none is readily apparent. While these can all be associated with other types of issues, they are most commonly caused by some form of gastrointestinal upset.

Imaging and examination. The first steps to diagnosing Crohn’s disease include simply looking at the gastrointestinal tract. Your doctor will most likely recommend a colonoscopy; depending on the types of symptoms, he or she may also wish to examine your throat and stomach as well. These scopes allow your doctor to see whether your digestive tract has healthy tissue and will allow biopsies of any suspicious areas to eliminate cancerous growths or other issues that may cause similar changes in the appearance of the tissues.

Analysis. Blood, urine and feces all help indicate when there is a problem in your body. Your blood will reveal whether an abnormal amount of white blood cells are present in your body, indicating either an infection or an abnormal immune response. This will also reveal anemia. Analysis of a fecal sample will reveal blood in the digestive tract, which may indicate inflammation and/or ulcers.

Family history. Crohn’s disease is known to run in families and is most likely the culmination of a number of different contributing factors. Your doctor may ask for your family history regarding gastrointestinal diseases on your first visit in order to help with the diagnosis. Bear in mind that other digestive problems in the family, such as Celiac, may indicate a higher risk for Crohn’s disease.