How is ulcerative colitis diagnosed?

To diagnose ulcerative colitis, 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 or parasites (tiny organisms that can live in a person’s body) 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. Or you may have a special type of X-ray that involves drinking liquid to coat your lower intestine. On the X-ray, the liquid coating spotlights any ulcers or other problems.
  • 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 your care.

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