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Once IBD has been diagnosed, symptoms can oftentimes be effectively managed with medication and ongoing monitoring.

Monitoring your health with laboratory tests

Even if there are no disease symptoms or extraintestinal manifestations, you will need periodic blood testing for evidence of active inflammation and complications of your disease or medical therapy. This is important because even if you feel well, inflammation could be building in your intestine or other complications may be underway. It is also important to understand that the test results will change over time, reflecting your condition. Tests are a snapshot of where you are today, and not a long-term view of your health.

Tests that your physician may order on a regular basis can include the following:

  • Complete Blood Count — identifies anemia, infection, inflammation, and monitors certain medications
  • ESR (sedimentation rate) — identifies inflammation
  • C-reactive protein — identifies inflammation
  • Liver Enzymes — screens for liver complications
  • Electrolytes — checks for dehydration and medication side effects
  • Stool markers and cultures — identifies inflammation and infection complications

With a specific disease diagnosis like IBD, health insurance plans will generally cover the cost of monitoring tests as they can contribute to maintaining your health, reducing complications, and finding the right treatments.

Other procedures and imaging

Endoscopy is a procedure that lets your doctor look inside your body. It uses an instrument called an endoscope, or “scope” for short. Scopes have a tiny camera attached to a long, thin, flexible tube. When you have an endoscopy, your physician will be able to see images of your intestine magnified on a screen during the procedure, allowing him to evaluate different areas of the gastrointestinal tract, to assess the intestinal lining, and to guide biopsies (samples of the intestinal lining). Endoscopy is vital for monitoring your therapy. Healing of the lining of the intestine is a sign that your medication is effective.

Endoscopic tests include:

  • Colonoscopy
  • Sigmoidoscopy
  • EGD or upper endoscopy
  • Capsule Endoscopy (CE)
  • EUS or endoscopic ultrasound

Traditional upper endoscopy and colonoscopy will not be able to evaluate about two-thirds of the small intestine. In addition to capsule endoscopy, radiologic exams or diagnostic imaging are performed to evaluate these segments of intestines as well as to evaluate areas outside the bowel. Radiology involves taking pictures that reveal the inside of the body.

There are many types of radiological tests used in IBD, including:

  • Barium enema
  • CT scan and CT enterography (CTE)
  • Leukocyte scintigraphy (white blood cell scans)
  • MRI and MR enterography (MRE)
  • Small bowel follow-through and small bowel enteroclysis
  • Ultrasound
  • X-rays

Learn more about these procedures and tests in the CCFA brochure Diagnosing and Managing IBD.