Getting Diagnosed

Medical history and symptoms

Healthcare Providers (HCPs) typically start a visit by getting information about a person’s medical and family history. This information helps to guide the HCP to determine what further testing may be needed to make a diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease.

It is important to let your HCPs know about history with the following:

  • Family members with IBD (Crohn's or colitis) such as a grandparent, parent, sibling and/or child

  • Cigarette smoking (past or current smoker)

  • Clostridium difficile infection (C. difficile or C. diff)

  • Ulcers in the stomach or intestine

  • Previous hospitalization and/or surgery

  • Medication use (e.g., antibiotics, hormonal medication such as oral contraceptives)

  • Other diseases (e.g., colorectal disease, celiac disease, arthritis)

HCPs will also ask about the frequency and severity of your symptoms. Here are some examples to help start the conversation: 

  • Number of bowel movements you usually have per day

  • Frequency of diarrhea or watery stool (all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, rarely or never)

  • Occurrence of blood in the stool after a bowel movement (all of the time, most of the time, some of the time, rarely or never)

  • Frequency of abdominal pain or cramping (every day, most days, some days, a few days or no days)

  • Severity of abdominal pain or cramping? Would you describe it as mild, moderate or severe intensity? How would you rate it on a scale from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst possible pain imaginable)?

  • Feeling fatigued, a lack of energy or weakness (every day, most days, some days, a few days or no days)

After reporting your medical history and symptoms, HCPs will use tests to rule out other possible causes of symptoms and help them make a diagnosis of Crohn's or colitis.

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Testing and routine visits

Healthcare providers use a combination of tests to make a dignosis of Crohn's or colitis, detect signs of disease activity (inflammation) once a diagnosis is given, and check for disease complications such as malnutrition and anemia. These procedures include blood tests, stool tests (fecal calprotectin), endoscopic, and/or imaging techniques

Depending on the severity of your IBD and other factors, an IBD specialist will typically schedule routine visits for every 3, 6, or 12 months. During these visits, HCPs will check on how well your disease is being managed by your medications, try to prevent complications of IBD, and discuss the impact that the disease may have on your daily activities and overall quality of life.

For information on clinic visits and IBD testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, please click here

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Keeping track of symptoms

Once a diagnosis is given, it is important to keep track your symptoms, how you're feeling, and lifestyle habits is important to help you and your healthcare providers determine what treatment works best for you.

Download our MyGut app to help keep track of your IBD symptoms and share this information with your healthcare providers. MyGut is a free, easy-to-use-app developed by Crohn's and Colitis Canada that enables you to track, understand, and manage your journey with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

MyGut provides you with a simple platform to keep track of your symptoms, such as pain and washroom usage, and lifestyle habits, such as sleep, diet, and nutrition.

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