Ulcerative Colitis

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis

In order for your healthcare provider to diagnose ulcerative colitis, several tests and procedures may be performed. In most cases, a combination of blood tests and imaging studies is sufficient to confirm a diagnosis.

Tests and procedures used to diagnose ulcerative colitis include17:

  • Blood tests: Your healthcare provider may want to check for anemia, a condition that occurs when the body’s red blood cell count is low. Blood tests can also check for any indication of an infection that may contribute to ulcerative colitis.
  • Colonoscopy: In this procedure, a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached is inserted into the colon and used to visualize the inside of the intestinal system. This procedure also allows for a small tissue sample (biopsy) to be taken for laboratory testing.
  • Stool sample: Stool samples can be tested for the presence of white blood cells, which can be a sign of ulcerative colitis.
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy: This procedure, which is similar to a colonoscopy, involves using a thin, flexible tube to examine the rectum and sigmoid portion of the colon. Healthcare providers may opt for this procedure over a full colonoscopy if it is known that your colon is already severely inflamed.
  • X-ray: An X-ray may be used over other imaging studies to rule out complications like a perforated colon.
  • CT scan: A CT scan can be used to visualize the extent of colon inflammation and determine whether you have developed any other gastrointestinal complications as the result of ulcerative colitis.
  • CT enterography and MR enterography: These noninvasive imaging studies may be used to rule out inflammation in the small intestine. CT enterography involves using small amounts of radiation, while MR enterography does not.

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