IBD: Getting a Quick and Accurate Diagnosis

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Inflammatory Bowel Disease can be notoriously hard to diagnose. Some of that is due to the fact that the symptoms for IBD overlap with many other digestive diseases such as food allergies, Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or even colon cancer. Since some of these diseases are far more prevalent, they may be ruled out first causing additional delay. In one pediatric study, patients waited an average of over three months for a Crohn’s diagnosis and over two months for an Ulcerative Colitis diagnosis.

It can be really frustrating to wait for a diagnosis and proper treatment when you are feeling poorly. If you find yourself growing impatient or are new on your search for more information about these conditions, here are some tips to help speed up the process.

Document your symptoms.

Keeping a close track of your symptoms and reporting them to your physician is key in getting an accurate diagnosis quickly. If you aren’t a tech savvy person, try using a calendar to write your symptoms on. Be sure to bring all of this information to your physician.

Know your genetic history if possible.

Having an immediate family member with IBD is the number one risk factor for developing the disease, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America. If it’s possible, ask your family members about any GI issues they may have had in their past. Not everyone who develops IBD has a family history of the disease, but it is one important clue.

Keep track of testing.

In addition to keeping track of your symptoms, keeping track of testing is especially important if you have had tests run with different facilities or physicians. Repeating testing unnecessarily can cause unneeded delay. Getting a copy of your tests to have in your own folder and making sure copies are sent to your current doctor can also help prevent this issue.

Communicate clearly with your physician.

Let’s be honest, talking about GI issues can be downright uncomfortable -- but open and honest communication with your physician is essential in obtaining the right diagnosis quickly. Don’t be embarrassed! Doctors talk about all of those things on a daily basis, so there is nothing you can tell them that they have not already heard. Another benefit to being open and honest is that your doctor needs to know exactly what is going on to get an accurate diagnosis. Still extremely nervous? Letting the doctor read the symptoms you have written down can help.

Don’t let fear or cost of testing keep you from doing the right tests.

Some of the testing required for IBD, such as the colonoscopy, can be a little scary- especially if you have never had any tests like it before. Unfortunately, many of these tests have to be done in order to get proper diagnosis and treatment. If you have concerns about the test itself or paying for the test please discuss the issue with your physician. They can help put your mind at ease about the tests and may be able to direct you to payment plans or programs that help cover some of the cost.

The faster you get treated for IBD the faster the medications can get to work preventing permanent damage to the GI tract. This is definitely not an instance where you should wait and see. Check out the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation’s information sheet for more tips on diagnostics and tests.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.