Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) - Diagnosis & Treatment

How is inflammatory bowel disease diagnosed?

Your doctor will first ask about your symptoms and suggest blood and stool tests to check for intestinal inflammation.

If IBD is suspected, your doctor may recommend additional tests, including:

  • Colonoscopy. Usually performed under sedation, this procedure allows your doctor to examine the large intestine by inserting a flexible, lighted tube with an attached camera. A biopsy may be performed at the same time to obtain tissue samples for analysis.
  • Computerised tomography (CT) scan. This is a diagnostic imaging test that uses X-rays and digital imaging to produce cross-sectional visuals.
  • Upper endoscopy. If you have abdominal pain with nausea or vomiting, you may be recommended an upper endoscopy to examine your oseophagus and stomach through to the upper part of your small intestine.
  • Capsule endoscopy. A non-invasive procedure, capsule endoscopy requires you to swallow a pill that contains a tiny wireless camera to capture images of your digestive tract.

How is inflammatory bowel disease is treated?

Treatment for IBD may involve medical therapy to reduce inflammation caused by the disease, thereby relieving symptoms and reducing the occurence of flare-ups.

In cases where medical therapy has not worked, surgery may be needed to remove severely inflamed segments of intestines, or for the treatment of complications (e.g. stricture, perforations and fistulae).

Medical therapy

Your doctor may prescribe medications such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicine (e.g. aminosalicylates)
  • Immunosuppressants, immunomodulators or steroids
  • Biological agents and small molecules
  • Antibiotics

Surgical treatment

For ulcerative colitis, a colectomy and/or proctocolectomy may be performed. The surgeon will remove your colon and/or rectum, connect the small intestine to the anus, and create an ileal pouch to collect stools that will be passed out.

For Crohn's disease, a bowel resection (colectomy) may be performed. The surgeon will remove the diseased parts of your intestines and connect the two healthy ends together, so your bowel can resume functioning normally after the surgery.

Speak to your doctor to understand the risks and benefits of surgery, and discuss which treatment options are best suited for you.

This page has been reviewed by our medical content reviewers.

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