How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?

To diagnose ulcerative colitis in children, teenagers and adults, your healthcare provider has to rule out other illnesses. After a physical exam, your provider may order:

  • Blood tests: Your blood can show signs of infection or anemia. Anemia is a low level of iron in your blood. It can mean you have bleeding in the colon or rectum.
  • Stool samples: Signs of infection, parasites (tiny organisms that can live in a person’s body), and inflammation can show up in your poop.
  • Imaging tests: Your healthcare provider may need a picture of your colon and rectum. You may have tests including a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or computed tomography (CT) scan.
  • Endoscopic tests: An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube with a tiny camera. Specialized doctors can slide the endoscope in through the anus to check the health of the rectum and colon. Common endoscopic tests include colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy.

Who diagnoses ulcerative colitis?

If you have symptoms of ulcerative colitis, your regular healthcare provider will probably refer you to a specialist. A gastroenterologist — a doctor who specializes in the digestive system — should oversee the care for adults. For young patients, a pediatric gastroenterologist who specializes in children should manage the care.

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