To diagnose inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), our doctors will ask about your symptoms, your medical history and your bowel movements to help rule out other possible causes first. They may also want to know if you have noticed whether anything triggers your symptoms, such as stress, anxiety or certain foods.
If they suspect it is IBD, they can refer you to a specialist for further investigation, which will usually involve further tests.
These could include:
- A stool sample – to look for anything that shouldn’t be there, like bacteria, infections or other diseases.
- A blood test – to look for signs of inflammation.
- X-ray – to check if your intestine is ruptured.
- Colonoscopy – a thin, flexible camera is used to look at your colon for inflammation or any other damage.
- Sigmoidoscopy - this is the same as above, but only a smaller section of your large intestine will be examined.
- Capsule endoscopy – you swallow a small tablet which contains a camera that takes pictures as it moves through your small intestine. This test is relatively rare.
The results of these tests (others may be carried out if needed), along with the symptoms you have, will make sure that you get an accurate diagnosis. You may need to have these tests repeated because IBD can go through of periods of flare ups and inactivity.
It is not always a quick diagnosis, as the doctors will need to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms, such as IBS or coeliac’s disease.
Why getting a diagnosis is so important
IBD symptoms can cause many problems in the digestive system, and if left untreated, it can lead to discomfort or further complications, such as intestinal obstruction or abscesses.
Getting an IBD diagnosis as soon as possible is essential. This will make sure the treatment works to reduce the risk of other problems.
You may find the symptoms you have are embarrassing to talk about. However, there is nothing to worry about. Our caring doctors are here to help, not judge, so please make sure you give them as much information about everything you are experiencing, so that they can help you get an accurate diagnosis.
If you are diagnosed with IBD, it is important to have regular reviews as it is a long-term condition that will need monitoring to ensure the treatment is working properly. You will be assigned a specialist team who will work with you to regularly review your treatment. As we mentioned earlier, you may need to have regular tests to see how you are responding to it.
The condition may change over time, flare ups can become more frequent or severe, and if they do, or if you are struggling to cope, our doctors can help.