Crohn's Disease - Diagnosis

An individual may be suspected to have Crohn's if he or she begins to experience the described symptoms. Blood tests may provide some additional information by showing the presence of infection or malnutrition. Stool samples may be needed to rule out other GI disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, that have symptoms similar to those of Crohn's disease.

The most reliable method for diagnosing Crohn's disease is with a colonoscopy (pronounced KO-lon-OSS-kuh-pee). A colonoscope (pronounced ko-LON-o-skope) consists of a long, flexible tube with a light attached to the end. The tube is inserted into the patient's rectum. It is then threaded upward into the colon. With the colonoscope, a doctor is able to examine the walls of the colon. The presence of inflammation suggests a diagnosis of Crohn's disease.

The colonoscope may also have a small, sharp knife attached at the end. With the knife, a doctor can remove a tiny sample of tissue, which can then be examined under a microscope. Certain distinctive characteristics of cells indicate the presence of Crohn's disease.

A barium enema is sometimes used to confirm a diagnosis of Crohn's disease. A barium enema consists of a white liquid that is injected into the patient's rectum. The liquid moves upward into the colon and coats the lining of the colon. X-ray photographs of the colon are then taken. The white lining produces a clear X-ray photograph that shows the presence of any abnormal structures in the GI tract.

Scientists have known about Crohn's disease for more than two hundred years. The first description of the condition was probably written by the Italian physician Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682–1771). But the real pioneer of research on this disease was the American physician, Burrill B. Crohn (1884–1983). Crohn was born in New York City and earned his medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He spent most of his professional career at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Crohn first described the condition that now bears his name in 1932.

How did Crohn first become interested in digestive problems? When asked this question, he gave an interesting answer. According to Crohn, his father had long suffered from very bad cases of indigestion, so he decided to become a doctor in order to learn what would bring his father relief. Crohn was obviously a very good son and a very good physician!

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