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Crohn's disease - How do doctors diagnose Crohn's disease?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

There's no simple test that can tell you whether or not you have Crohn's disease. Your doctor will talk to you about your symptoms, and you may need several different tests before your doctor is sure you have Crohn's disease.

It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose Crohn's disease. The symptoms vary from person to person, and lots of the symptoms can also be caused by other illnesses. Some people have Crohn's for a long time before they find out what's wrong, and this can be very frustrating. To find out about other conditions that have similar symptoms to Crohn's, see What else might it be?

The tests you have will look for signs of Crohn's and also help to rule out other, similar conditions. The best test for Crohn's uses a tiny camera on the end of a flexible tube to look inside your bowel. Other tests you might need include blood tests, stool tests and x-rays.[8]

Seeing your doctor

Your doctor will probably ask whether you've had symptoms like tiredness, diarrhoea, stomach pain or weight loss. He or she will look for other possible causes of your symptoms too. For example, your doctor might ask whether you've been travelling to countries where you might have picked up an infection.

Your doctor will also want to feel your abdomen. He or she is looking for tender spots, or any lumps that could be signs of scarring or a blockage. Your doctor might want to look inside your mouth or examine the skin around your back passage (anus).

Your doctor will probably weigh you. Having Crohn's disease can mean you lose weight, so it can be helpful to keep track of your weight over time.

You may be asked to give a stool sample. This can be checked under a microscope to make sure your symptoms aren't being caused by parasites or an infection.

Tests your doctor might order

There are several tests that can help your doctor be more certain about diagnosing Crohn's disease. Here are some you might have. The best is colonoscopy, which looks directly inside your bowel for signs of inflammation.

Glossary

anus

The anus, which is at the end of the rectum, is where stools leave your body when you go to the toilet. Part of the anus is a muscle that helps you hold in the stool until you are on the toilet.

diarrhoea

Diarrhoea is when you have loose, watery stools and you need to go to the toilet far more often than usual. Doctors say you have diarrhoea if you need to go to the toilet more than three times a day.

infection

You get an infection when bacteria, a fungus, or a virus get into a part of your body where it shouldn't be. For example, an infection in your nose and airways causes the common cold. An infection in your skin can cause rashes such as athlete's foot. The organisms that cause infections are so tiny that you can't see them without a microscope.

parasite

Parasites are germs or creatures that can only survive by living on or in another living thing.

X-ray

X-rays are pictures taken of the inside of your body. They are made by passing small amounts of radiation through your body and then onto film.

For more terms related to Crohn's disease

Citations

For references related to Crohn's disease click here.
Last Updated: June 29, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.
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