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Diagnosing Crohn's Disease

Crohn's Disease is a lifelong disease that affects the bowels and parts of the digestive system. While doctors do not know the actual cause of this inflammatory bowel disease, it has been found that bacteria and the immune system's abnormal response to these bacteria can play a role in symptom flare ups.

Because many of the symptoms that accompany Crohn's disease, such as stomach pain and persistent diarrhea, can be attributed to other illness and diseases, it is important to use several different tests and procedures to arrive at a Crohn's disease diagnosis. If you are exhibiting symptoms that include severe stomach pain, fever, chills, vomiting, or sudden weight loss, it is important to see your doctor to find out if you have Crohn's.

How is Crohn's disease diagnosed?

People who have Crohn's disease may not exhibit ongoing symptoms, but flare-ups are common when people have infections or hormonal changes. Few people who are diagnosed with Crohn's will have severe symptoms that are ongoing for long periods of time. If you have noticed that your symptoms come and go or if your symptoms are getting worse, it is time to see your doctor. The very first step of diagnosis is getting a physical exam. If you have one or more symptoms that are a sign of worsening Crohn's, your doctor may also send you for X-rays or a variety of tests.

What tests can diagnose Crohn's disease?

The tests ordered for diagnosis will depend upon the type of symptoms you are noticing and how bad these symptoms are. One of the most common tests that can lead to an accurate diagnosis is a barium X-ray. The X-ray will be taken of the small intestine or the colon to see if there is inflammation in the digestive tract. If there is swelling at the end of the small intestine, this could be enough for your doctor to arrive at a diagnosis. You may also be asked to complete a stool analysis, in which your stool will be tested for bacteria or signs of infection.

A doctor may also order a colonoscopy to look inside of the colon with a lighted tube. If there is any abnormal tissue, the doctor may perform a biopsy and use a sample of the tissues to find out if the tissue is inflamed or if you are suffering from another disease. After the doctor has ruled out other causes of your symptoms and performed one or more of the tests, your diagnosis may be confirmed.


You should visit your primary care physician to undergo a physical exam if you believe you have symptoms that could be attributed to Crohn's disease. Your doctor will order tests to rule out other culprits like lactose intolerance or an upset stomach. After test results are reviewed, the doctor will be able to confirm a diagnosis or pinpoint other possible copy-cat conditions that carry the same symptoms.

Last Updated: November 28, 2016