What Tests Are Used to Diagnose IBD?

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), is a general term that describes disorders that cause chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (GI).

These are the two types of IBDTrusted:

  • Ulcerative Colitis (UC). Symptoms that affect the large intestine or rectum
  • Crohn’s disease: may affect any part or the GI tract

IBD symptoms can also be signs of other conditions. It can be difficult to diagnose IBD. IBD symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Bloody stool

There are many tests and exams that doctors can use to identify IBD, and help distinguish between them. A diagnosis is essential for successful management and treatment of your symptoms.

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Tests for Crohn’s disease

To diagnose Crohn’s disease, doctors can use many tests.

A physician will ask you about your medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor might order diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.

Lab tests

There are several lab tests that can be used to diagnose Crohn’s disease, including:

  • Blood test. Blood testing can show you your levels of white and red blood cells. Anemia is a condition in which you have less red blood cells than usual. This could indicate bleeding in your colon or rectum. High white blood cell counts could indicate inflammation or infection in your body. Doctors can use certain blood biomarkers such as CRP or ESR to determine if there is inflammation in your bodyTrusted source.
  • Test your stool. Provide a small amount of your poop. To determine if there are any digestive disorders, lab analysts will examine the sample. If you have gastrointestinal inflammation, doctors can detect it by analysing stool proteins like calprotectin or lactoferrin.

Scientists are currently studying whether markers in blood, tissue or other bodily fluids can help predict if a person will suffer from IBD.

These “prognostic tests” are not yet widely used.


Endoscopy is the best way to diagnoseTrusted source Crohn’s disease.

One or more of these types of endoscopy might be ordered by a healthcare professional:

  • Colonoscopy. The doctor uses an instrument called the endoscope, which is a thin tube that has a light and camera attached to examine your colon and rectum. To test for inflammation, the doctor may also take tissue samples (called a biopsy). This procedure can be performed at a hospital or an outpatient clinic. Instructions will be provided on how to prepare for a coloscopy.
  • Upper GI enteroscopy and endoscopy. A doctor will gently guide an endoscope down into your stomach and duodenum to examine your upper digestive tract. You may also be asked to take biopsies. This procedure is typically performed in a hospital or an outpatient center. The doctor might also use a longer, special instrument to inspect the small intestine during an enteroscopy.
  • Capsule endoscopy. You’ll be given a capsule containing a tiny camera. The doctor can see inside your stomach by recording images and transmitting them to a tiny receiver you wear. When you poop, the capsule will eventually be removed from your body.

Imaging tests

To get a better view of your body, doctors may recommend imaging tests.

The following are some of the most common imaging tests for Crohn’s disease:

  • CT scan. An CT scanner uses computer technology and X-rays to take pictures of your digestive system. A solution may be offered to you along with a injection of contrast medium. This is a special dye that helps to identify structures within your body. As you lie down on a table, a CT machine will take X-rays.
  • UpperGI series. First, you’ll need to stand or sit down in front of an Xray machine. Then, you’ll drink a chalky liquid called “barium” that will make your upper GI tract more visible. You’ll then lie down on an Xray table and a doctor will watch the barium pass through your GI tract. This procedure will be explained to you in detail.
  • MRI scan. An MRI uses radio waves and magnets to create cross-sectional images. This test is used to examine difficult-to-reach areas such as the small intestine. Endoscopy is not usually possible with this type of test.

Diagnostic tests to evaluate ulcerative colitis (UC).

A doctor may recommend a combination test to diagnose UC. The doctor will often ask about your family history and perform a physical exam.

Lab tests

Common laboratory tests that can be used to diagnose UC include:

  • Blood tests. Doctors take a sample of your blood to check for signs and complications such as anemia or UC. You may also find signs of infection and other digestive problems in your blood.
  • Test your stool. This can be used to rule out other conditions, such as infection, that might cause your symptoms.


Different endoscopy techniques are used by doctors to view the large intestine and take a biopsy. Endoscopy is used to diagnose UC and determine the extent of the large intestine that has been affected.

Two of the most popular types of endoscopy for UC areTrusted Source and

  • Colonoscopy. Doctors use an endoscope to examine the entire colon and rectum during a colonoscopy.
  • Flexible signoidoscopy. This flexible endoscope is used to view the lower portion of the colon and the rectum. If your colon is extremely inflamed, doctors may perform this test.

Imaging tests

To rule out or detect complications, imaging tests such as CT scans and X-rays may be performed.

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What treatment options are available?

After you have been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease or UC, consult a healthcare professional for a referral to a gastroenterologist who specializes treating these conditions.

Although there is no cure for IBD, some treatments, procedures and lifestyle changes may help. Your gastroenterologist will recommend lifestyle and diet changes that can help you ease your symptoms.

The severity of your condition as well as other factors will determine the treatment you receive. IBD sufferers can lead active, fulfilling lives once they learn how to avoid complications and symptoms.

The takeaway

IBD can be a complicated disease and it is sometimes hard to diagnose. To find out what is causing your symptoms, consult your doctor immediately if you have IBD symptoms.

Your doctor can use a variety of tests to determine whether you have IBD. These include imaging exams, lab work and endoscopies. Your doctor and you can collaborate to find the best treatment for your condition.

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