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Medical History and Physical Exam for Crohn's Disease


Medical History and Physical Exam for Crohn's Disease

A medical history and physical exam are standard tests for people who have abdominal pain and a change in bowel habits. They allow a doctor to determine the seriousness and extent of disease.

The medical history for Crohn's disease includes questions about:

  • Bowel function, including how many bowel movements you have per day or per week, whether you have constipation or diarrhea, whether you have noticed any blood or mucus in your stool, and any recent changes in your bowel habits or the shape of your stools.
  • Whether your bowel movement patterns have any relationship to your abdominal pain (for example, if passing a stool relieves your pain).
  • Whether your family has any history of similar symptoms.
  • Your use of laxatives or antacids.
  • Factors that may increase your risk of an intestinal infection, such as traveling to a foreign country, drinking untreated water, or recently taking antibiotics.
  • Your sexual history. Some sexually transmitted diseases may infect the rectum and cause symptoms similar to those of Crohn's disease.

Your doctor will do a standard physical exam, which may include:

  • Feeling the abdomen.
  • Performing a digital rectal exam.
  • Listening for bowel sounds with a stethoscope.
  • Examining the eyes, skin, joints, and inside of the mouth.
  • Performing a pelvic exam for women.

Crohn's disease cannot be diagnosed based on the medical history or physical findings alone. The diagnosis may be suggested if:

  • The abdomen is tender.
  • Fissures, fistulas, or abscesses around the anus can be seen or felt during the digital rectal exam.
  • You report frequent episodes of diarrhea, sometimes with blood. You may be awakened at night by an urgent need to have a bowel movement.
  • You appear feverish and pale or look underweight. Children may be small or underdeveloped for their age.
  • You have a family history of Crohn's disease, especially in the immediate family.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerArvydas D. Vanagunas, MD - Gastroenterology
Last RevisedOctober 8, 2010

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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