The biggest problem with diagnosing Crohn’s Disease (alternatively known as inflammatory bowel disease) comes from its likeness to many other diverse conditions. Although there are a number of common symptoms for Crohn’s Disease, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and weight loss, there are plenty of other gastrointestinal problems which present in incredibly similar ways. Therefore, the only way to truly know if you have Crohn’s Disease is to find a doctor equipped with the best knowledge and tools to diagnose your problem. Your general physician will be able to refer you to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in the field of gastroenterology.
Your new gastroenterologist will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms. It is important to tell your doctor every symptom you have, even if it at first does not seem connected to an abdominal issue, because Crohn’s Disease is also known to cause some seemingly unrelated issues. It can cause skin rashes, eye inflammation, arthritis, fatigue, and lack of concentration. Your doctor will then give you a general physical to examine any external symptoms or muscle tenderness. Then, he or she may decide to order a number of different tests to not only rule out other conditions, but to hone in on the exact cause of yours.
The first of many tests used to diagnose Crohn’s Disease is a complete blood test. The function of this is to find possible effects your condition has had on your body. For example, because Crohn’s Disease is considered an autoimmune disease, a person who has it may experience an elevated white blood cell count. This would be a sign that their body thinks it is fighting off an infection when in reality it is actually attacking itself and creating all of your symptoms. A more extensive blood test may be ordered if your doctor determines it to be needed.
Another area a doctor can look for clues is in your stool. It is one of two other non-invasive ways for a doctor to understand what goes on inside of your gastrointestinal tract. A doctor can use this test to rule out other conditions (such as an actual infection because bacteria is present in your stool) or to find further evidence of Crohn’s. This test merely requires you to provide a sample to your doctor, either in the office or mailed from home with a container your doctor provides.
The other non-invasive tests a doctor can perform are a large array of radiology tests, ranging from simple sonograms to a test where the patient swallows a special liquid used to track how your body handles digestion. These tests can be used to easily see ulcers and other inflammation which may or may not be related to Crohn’s Disease.
If these tests are not enough to determine what the problem is, a doctor may finally order an endoscopy, which is an invasive test where a small camera is inserted into your body to get a first-hand look at the problem from the inside. Depending on what your doctor suspects the problem may be, he or she can choose to enter from several different locations. Your doctor may choose to enter through your anus, your mouth, or a small incision made in your abdomen.
By utilizing all of these tests, a doctor will be able to determine whether or not you have Crohn’s Disease or some other condition. From that point, your doctor will tell you the best way to treat the problem at hand.