Crohn’s disease has numerous symptoms that vary from person to person. There is no conclusive test that can diagnose Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease has similar symptoms to other common conditions.
The healthcare provider will evaluate people with Crohn’s to check their current medical history and use the information to exclude other potential conditions that can lead to similar symptoms. If you or your loved one are experiencing symptoms that could be Crohn’s disease, visit a reliable doctor as soon as possible.
This article will help you navigate the diagnostic process and answer the question, “how is Crohn’s disease detected and treated?” giving answers to what to expect each step of the way.
How Is Crohn’s Disease Detected and Diagnosed?
The first step to diagnosing and treating Crohn’s disease is to undergo a standard physical exam of the whole body. Your healthcare provider will ask several questions about your overall health, diet, nutrition, daily routine, and family history.
What to expect:
- The doctor will order diagnostic testing to check for signs of Crohn’s disease to rule out other possible medical conditions.
- You will undergo the first tests, such as blood and stool tests.
- Further tests may include X-rays on the upper and lower GI tract. Other doctors recommend a test that uses contract chemicals to see detailed pictures of the GI tract.
- Consider tugging a family member along to the appointments. This is important to ease stress and help you remember information you may forget.
The tests include:
Blood or Stool Tests Looking for Crohn’s Disease
Blood tests help doctors check for signs of antibodies or infection in your blood. They will check for the levels of white blood cells and platelets. High amounts indicate there is inflammation or infection in the body.
The inflammation can occur due to Crohn’s disease or other known inflammatory conditions. But a blood test alone cannot help make a complete Crohn’s diagnosis. It only helps to assess the likelihood of the conditions.
A stool test will check for blood in the stool. The presence of blood in stool shows issues with your digestive systems, including Crohn’s disease. The doctors will then rule out the other possible causes of the symptoms. The doctor will need a sample of stool or feces for the stool test.
The colonoscopy allows the doctor to view the large intestine, the digestive tract’s lower part. The technique can accurately show the intestines’ condition and find small ulcers or inflammation better than other techniques. Doctors also use them to judge the severity of inflammation, making it an essential tool for diagnosing Crohn’s disease.
During the procedure, doctors will push a flexible viewing tube through the anus into your large intestine. The images will then be projected on a video monitor. With a colonoscopy, you get a full view of the colon and the end of the small intestines that can also be affected by Crohn’s.
In either case, the doctor will use the test to check for signs of inflammation, ulcers, or bleeding. The doctor may also take a small tissue sample to examine under a microscope, a biopsy test. It helps to determine whether the tissues has sign of Crohn’s disease or other issues.
Capsule endoscopy is another revolutionary test doctors use when others are not conclusive. Before undergoing a Capsule endoscopy test, the patient will swallow a small capsule with a tiny camera.
The camera will continuously take images of the walls of small intestines and the entire digestive tract. The images will show the presence of Crohn’s disease in the small intestine that you cannot view with other tests like a colonoscopy.
The biggest benefit of this test is that it is minimally invasive. The capsule will pass through the digestive system without causing discomfort.
CT or MRI Scans
CT scans use computer-aided X-ray techniques to create detailed images of the patient’s abdomen and pelvis that you can view with traditional X-rays. Doctors can use CT scans to find abscesses that are pockets of infection.
MRI scans give doctors a detailed picture of the inside body without subjecting the patient to radiation. Your doctor can view the small intestines and spot anal abscesses or fistula.
Common Methods of Crohn’s Disease Treatment
Currently, there is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, and there is no single treatment that works universally for everyone. The goal of medical treatment for Crohn’s disease is to reduce the inflammation that can trigger signs and symptoms.
Doctors can also help patients improve their long-term prognosis by limiting the complications. When used correctly, the treatment procedures will lead to symptom relief and long-term remissions.
The typical treatments used include:
Using antibiotics reduces the amount of drainage from abscesses and fistulas and can also help with Crohn’s disease. Other researchers feel antibiotics can reduce the effects of harmful bacteria that cause inflammation in the intestines.
Anti-inflammatory is usually the first step in treating inflammatory bowel disease. They include:
- Corticosteroids: These help reduce inflammation but never work for everyone with Crohn’s disease. You can also combine them with an immune systems suppressor to benefit from other medications.
- Oral 5-aminosalicylates: These are not popular medications today as they generally offer limited benefits.
Doctors may also recommend special diets for Crohn’s disease patients. These will improve the body’s overall nutrition allowing the bowel to rest. The result is reduced bowel inflammation in the short term.
Doctors use nutrition therapy in the short term and combine it with other medications like immune systems suppressors. These may include low-fiber or low-residue to reduce the risk of intestinal blockage.
Surgery for Complications
If all the above treatments fail, doctors will eventually recommend surgery. Nearly half of Crohn’s disease patients undergo at least one surgery. But the surgery does not cure the disease.
The surgeons will remove the damaged portion of the digestive tract to let the other healthy sections reconnect. The benefits are usually temporary as the disease may occur later. The best approach is to follow surgery with medication to minimize the risk of recurrence.
Learn More About Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease can be unpredictable and can disrupt your daily life. Luckily, with the proper treatment and lifestyle changes, you can manage the symptoms and avoid complications to live an active life. At Gastroenterology Group of Northern New Jersey, we provide a full spectrum of services to detect and treat your conditions. Book an appointment today to learn more.