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Diagnosing Crohn's

Understanding a Tricky Diagnosis

It can be difficult to diagnose Crohn's disease. Everyone has a different experience. People who may have Crohn's but have not been diagnosed often have symptoms such as:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Stomach pain and cramping
  • Blood in their stool

In order to make a Crohn's disease diagnosis, a general practitioner or gastroenterologist will conduct a series of tests to try to determine the cause of these symptoms. (Read more about new techniques to look for evidence of Crohn’s in the Winter 2010 and Spring 2011 issues of Crohn’sAdvocate magazine)

Blood Tests

A patient's blood is examined for a variety of factors that may point to signs of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). In particular, doctors may conduct a complete blood count to check for an elevated white blood cell count or low hemoglobin count, 2 blood test results that typically are requested for patients with IBD and Crohn's disease.

Stool Examinations

This is a test in which a small sample of a patient’s stool (or feces) is examined for certain parasites, blood, bacteria, or viral components that might indicate or rule out an IBD, such as Crohn's.

Barium X-ray

Before the x-ray, a patient drinks barium, a fluid that makes the gastrointestinal (GI) tract show up during an x-ray, highlighting abnormalities.

CT Scans

A CT (computed tomography) test, also known as a CAT scan, is a test that uses a scanning machine to look at the patient's internal systems. In Crohn's disease, the CT test is used to detect abscesses (localized infections) and fistulas (abnormal tunnels between 2 hollow organs, such as the colon and the vagina) in the patient's GI tract.

Endoscopic Tests

A doctor uses an endoscope, a long tube with a fiber-optic camera attached to one end, which is snaked through the intestine to see inside the GI tract. The endoscope also includes a tool that allows the doctor to take a small sample of the bowel wall that can be examined later in a lab for evidence of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

See also: Stages of Crohn's, Symptoms of Crohn's, Crohn's treatment options