With a disease like Crohn’s, finding the problem can be difficult, and receiving a diagnosis can take longer than expected.
There are so many signs and symptoms and combinations of symptoms that are individual to each patient that finding a diagnosis is not as simple as a yes or no answer.
The first go-to for getting your diagnosis is to see a primary care physician. Your primary doctor will usually recommend a referral for a consultation with a gastroenterologist. After meeting with a GI, you’ll likely go through a colonoscopy, endoscopy, or both so that doctors can view your inflammation and take biopsies of what they see.
There’s no single specific test for Crohn’s, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America, and the inflammation that doctors are looking for could be happening at the wrong place or wrong time during testing or scopes.
Blood work is usually ordered, such as a CBC (complete blood count), to look for anemia and infections; liver or kidney panels can be ordered; and typically at least one stool sample is requested.
For some, a colonoscopy and blood tests will prove inflammation is happening, and a diagnosis with a treatment plan and prescription will be suggested. But for others, it can take months or years to get a diagnosis — even if you have symptoms systemic to Crohn’s. Doctors hate to go through years of testing, but a diagnosis is a serious matter, and every test confirms or rules out a problem, bringing you one step closer to finding the real issue.
If you do get a Crohn’s diagnosis, you’ll probably have your own individual issues that others may not relate to. Others are still trying to put a name to a problem that has ailed their bodies. It’s not something to look forward to, but a diagnosis means so much to someone when they have problems and aren’t getting answers.
A colonoscopy (coming up from the bottom) or an endoscopy (going down from the top) are both scope procedures in which a tube is inserted into the body through the anus or mouth to look around. These are done under general anesthesia to help avoid any discomfort or embarrassment, and sometimes fasting is required as well as a bowel prep solution to drink (lots of it).
Sometimes other forms of scoping are used, such as a capsule endoscopy when neither an endoscopy or colonoscopy spots sites of inflammation. In a capsule endoscopy, the patient swallows a large pill-sized camera and wears a receiver belt around the waist for the duration of the day. If all goes well, the belt is returned to the doctor’s office, the pill exits the body with normal waste, and your doctor reviews the images taken.
Some symptoms will be shared by many patients, while other patients will have symptoms that are unique to them. For example, I haven’t had a problem with fresh fruits or veggies to the extent that I can’t eat them. But others must avoid fruits and vegetables to avoid a flare-up or bowel obstruction. Some have persistent diarrhea, while others have constipation. Some have night sweats, while others can lose weight so quickly that it can be scary.
I was lucky in a sense that my diagnosis only took two years. But we’re still in the process of figuring out remission. During those years of determining a diagnosis, I underwent a number of colonoscopies, endoscopies, pill capsule endoscopies, CT scans and X-rays, doctor’s appointments and ER visits, and both of my bottom surgeries. (See “Early Signs and Symptoms of My Crohn’s Disease” and “Welcome to ‘It Could Be Worse.’”)
I cannot diagnose or provide treatment suggestions, but I would highly recommend that you see your doctor if you are having problems you think might be Crohn’s or colitis before these problems get worse.
Because It Could Be Worse.
Note:IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those ofIBD News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to inflammatory bowel disease.