Let’s look at the differences between Crohn’s and UC:
CROHN’S can involve any portion of the digestive tract—from the mouth to the anus. This is why someone with Crohn’s may have sores in their mouth.
UC is limited to the colon and rectum.
PEOPLE WITH CROHN'S may feel pain on the right side.
PEOPLE WITH UC may feel pain on the left side.
CROHN’S INFLAMMATION can penetrate the bowel wall and appear in patches in the entire GI tract.
UC INFLAMMATION usually starts in the rectum and lower colon, and it can spread continuously to the entire colon.
PEOPLE WITH CROHN’S don’t usually see blood in their stools.
PLEOPLE WITH UC can often have bloody stools.
If you’ve been experiencing recurring GI symptoms, and think you might have Crohn’s, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor or a gastroenterologist. Don’t have a gastroenterologist yet? We can help you find one here.
When you see your doctor, they may mention tests and procedures that help diagnose Crohn’s and determine how severe it is. Here are some tests you could hear about:
Doctors rely on visual evidence of IBD to diagnose and monitor Crohn’s. Imaging tests give them the evidence they need in the form of pictures and video. These tests can also help them find possible complications that may require ongoing monitoring.
This test uses a thin, flexible tube with a lighted camera inside the tip (called an endoscope) that allows doctors to explore different parts of the GI tract. An endoscopy enables them to see signs of inflammation to help determine the severity of Crohn’s. It’s also an important procedure doctors use to monitor Crohn’s activity over time.
Endoscopy can also include tests like:
An endoscopy may be combined with an ultrasound. An ultrasound device is attached to the endoscope to create specialized images deep down in the intestines.
This uses a capsule containing a tiny video camera, an LED light, a radio transmitter, and a battery. The capsule is swallowed, and as it travels through the intestines, the camera takes pictures that are sent to a computer. A doctor views the images to check for signs of Crohn’s disease. What happens to the capsule? It passes painlessly through the stool.
When your doctor needs to evaluate a larger portion of your intestine or outside the bowel, radiologic exams or diagnostic imaging like these tests will be performed.
A large magnet and radio waves help doctors look at internal organs and their structures, including muscles, soft tissue, and the brain. It does so without subjecting the body to radiation, and can provide a clear picture of the body, showing impacts of the disease beyond the intestine.
Even though blood and stool tests alone can’t diagnose Crohn’s, they’re important tools in diagnosing and monitoring it. These are only some of the blood and stool tests used for Crohn’s. There are others your doctor may recommend.
Indexes are a type of test that your doctor can administer during an appointment. These tests can include questions about your health as well as physical findings related to Crohn’s disease (for example, a sore in your mouth).
A commonly used index is the Harvey-Bradshaw Index. It allows physicians to measure Crohn's disease severity. It can be used along with modified patient-reported outcomes and physician-reported outcomes to assess the severity of Crohn's disease and detect remission in a noninvasive and cost-efficient manner.
There are five different types of Crohn’s disease based on what area of the GI tract is affected: ileocolitis, ileitis, gastroduodenal Crohn’s disease, jejunoileitis, and Crohn’s (granulomatous) colitis. No matter the type of Crohn’s disease, all require a gastroenterologist to diagnose and create a treatment plan tailored for each person.
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