In 2015, over 3 million adults in the US were diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease), and that number continues to climb.
You're not alone if you or someone you love has inflammatory bowel disease or is going through diagnostic testing. There is a lot to know about IBD and all the inflammatory disease lab tests that pave the way to a diagnosis.
If you're unsure about how inflammatory disease is diagnosed, then keep reading this guide. You'll learn everything you need to know about IBD and IBD blood tests.
What Is Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
You've probably heard of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes an irritable colon and cramps. While IBS can significantly impact your life, it doesn't cause damage to your digestive tract like inflammatory bowel disease does.
Another interesting fact is that you can have both IBD and IBS simultaneously, but having IBS doesn't increase your risk of developing IBD.
If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), you have an intestinal disorder that causes chronic, progressive, and damaging inflammation of your digestive tract. Your digestive tract includes your:
- Large intestine
- Small intestine
Your digestive tract breaks down the food you eat, takes in the nutrients, and eliminates waste products. When you have inflammation in some part of your digestive tract, it disrupts your normal digestive process and causes pain. Your body also doesn't absorb nutrients the same way.
There are several types of IBD, but the main two types are Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis.
Crohn's disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease that involves inflammation all along the lining of your digestive tract. While Crohn's disease can affect any part of your digestive tract, it primarily affects the end section of the small intestine.
The second type of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis involves ulcers, sores, and inflammation along your colon and large intestine. Ulcerative colitis mainly affects the large intestine.
A less severe type of IBD exists called microscopic colitis, and it's intestinal inflammation that's only detectable by a microscope.
You'll find both Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease in adults and children alike.
Cause of IBD
The exact cause of IBD isn't known, but family history and genetics may play a significant role. If you have a parent, sibling, or child with IBD, you have an increased risk of developing it yourself.
Risk Factors of IBD
Despite not knowing the exact cause, there are known risk factors besides that increase your chances of getting IBD.
Your immune system plays a role in developing IBD. Your immune system normally defends you from bacteria and any organisms that cause disease. Once the germ invasion is over, a healthy immune system will stop the attack.
With IBD, your immune system attacks your body's cells, causing digestive tract inflammation even when you don't have an infection.
Interestingly, smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for developing Crohn's disease and increases complications. Yet ulcerative colitis usually affects nonsmokers or ex-smokers alike.
Your ethnicity is a risk factor within itself. Ethnic groups like Caucasians and the Ashkenazi Jewish have an increased risk of developing inflammatory bowel disease.
IBD mainly affects people under 35 and who live in a cold climate or industrialized countries. IBD also typically affects both men and women equally.
Complications of IBD
If you have IBD, then you have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer due to chronic inflammation. Other complications you're at risk for include:
- Anemia (low red blood cells)
- Kidney stones
- Liver disease
- Malabsorption of nutrients
- Narrowing of your anal canal (anal stenosis)
Serious complications include severe intestinal swelling and a hole (perforation) anywhere in your digestive tract.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Symptoms
Symptoms of IBD can vary from mild to severe, depending on the location and severity of your inflammation. Common symptoms of both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis include:
- Weight loss
- Abdominal cramping
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody stool
- Reduced appetite
- Gas and bloating
You may also notice the presence of mucus or blood in your stool. Since IBD decreases your ability to absorb nutrients, people tend to suffer from a vitamin b12 deficiency.
IBD Blood Tests
There is no one specific blood test that can diagnose IBD, but IBD blood tests are an essential tool in the overall diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease and monitoring of the condition.
It's best to get testing from a reliable and affordable service such as Ulta Lab Tests. You don't need a physician's referral, and the specific blood tests that are appropriate for each condition are easy to choose with Ulta Lab Tests.
Ulta Lab Tests offers many different IBD blood test panels to fit your needs, ranging from basic to comprehensive panels. IBD blood tests in most panels include:
A complete blood count (CBC) which measures your blood levels like platelets, hemoglobin, white blood cells, and red blood cells.
Next, a C-reactive protein (CRP) blood test which detects inflammation in the body and may be tested again after an IBD diagnosis after treatment begins.
Your doctor may also order a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP). A CMP includes 14 different measurements of your blood sugar, nutrients, kidney, and liver levels.
A CMP also checks your electrolyte levels like potassium, chloride, and sodium. The CMP gives a great picture of your overall health.
Antibody Testing for IBD
Other inflammatory bowel disease lab tests involve antibody testing. Antibodies are proteins made by your immune system to fight off invasions from bacteria and germs.
The most common test is the Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) test. Your immune system produces autoantibodies that mistakenly attack proteins in the neutrophils of your white blood cells.
The ANCA test can help to detect the type of inflammatory bowel disease you have. Over 80% of people with ulcerative colitis will have ANCA, while only 20% of Crohn's disease is positive.
Another standard antibody test for IBD is immunoglobulin antibodies. Your body produces different types of immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulin A (IgA) is in the membranes of your lungs, stomach, and intestines.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is the most common antibody in your blood and protects you against infection by remembering germs of the past. Both IgA and IgG help differentiate the type of IBD you have.
Other lab tests may include iron studies and vitamin b12 levels to assess anemia and stool tests to check for parasites and other organisms.
The 40 Key Lab Tests for IBD
Are you interested in learning about the forty key lab tests that are used to monitor inflammatory bowel disease? Here's what you need to know: The key lab tests to help identify inflammatory bowel disease include:
1. Blood Culture
A blood culture checks for yeast, bacteria, and other types of microorganisms in your blood. If there's a positive result in your blood culture, it's a sign that you have a type of pathogen in your body that could be causing the symptoms that you're experiencing.
2. C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
C-Reactive protein, also referred to as CRP, is a blood test marker that measures the level of inflammation found in your body. If there's an increased level of CRP identified in your blood test, it means that's there's inflammation in your body, which is also commonly found in individuals with irritatable bowel disease.
A CBC test, which stands for complete blood count, is completed on individuals who are suffering from diarrhea. If diarrhea is one of the symptoms that you're experiencing, a CBC will be used to measure for an infection in your body. This blood test is also used to detect anemia, which could be a sign that you're experiencing bleeding in your digestive tract.
4. Comprehensive Metabolic Panel
A comprehensive metabolic panel will allow medical professionals to evaluate if you have a metabolic disorder if one of the symptoms you've experienced is unexplained weight loss. It'll also provide medical professionals with better insight if you have an electrolyte or dehydration abnormalities if you're experiencing diarrhea.
5. Direct Antiglobulin Test (DAT)
This blood test is used to let medical professionals if your red blood cells are being coated in vivo with immunoglobin, complement, or a mixture of both. A positive test rule for a direct antiglobulin test is a possible sign of autoimmune hemolytic anemia, a hemolytic transfusion reaction, or immune hemolysis induced by drug use.
Erythropoietin blood tests measure the Erythropoietin hormone, which is produced in your kidneys. This hormone is responsible for the production of red blood cells, which ensure that oxygen is carried from your lungs throughout the rest of your body.
An erythrocyte sedimentation rate blood test takes a measurement of how quickly your red blood cells settle at the bottom of a test tube. By measuring how quickly your red blood cells fall to the bottom of the test tube that contains a sample of your blood, medical professionals are able to identify signs of inflammation in your body.
8. Fecal Occult Blood
A fecal occult blood test checks your stool samples for hidden blood. Any occult blood that's found in your stool samples can indicate polyps in your colon, rectum, or even colon cancer.
A ferritin blood test measures the level of iron that's found in your blood. If your ferritin stores are too low, it's a sign that you have an iron deficiency, which can be a result of a Crohn's disease-causing your body to poorly absorb nutrients.
A folate test measures the level of folic acid available in your blood. Folic acid is Vitamin B-9, which ensures the healthy production of red blood cells.
G6PD is an abbreviation for glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase, which is an enzyme that supports the functioning of red blood cells. This blood test identifies if there's a genetic disorder present, where your body isn't producing enough of this enzyme.
12. Gram Stain
A gram stain test that's used to detect the presence of bacteria in a sample, which can identify an infection.
13. H. Pylori
H. Pylori is a type of bacteria that can live in your digestive tract, resulting in ulcers and the thinning of the lining of your smaller intestine and your stomach.
A haptoglobin blood test measures the amount of haptoglobin located in your bloodstream. This enzyme is responsible for binding with hemoglobin.
Hematocrit blood test measures the ratio of the volume of your total blood to the volume of red blood cells.
Hemoglobin is a type of protein in your blood that's responsible for carrying oxygen to your organs and tissues, while also aiding in moving carbon dioxide back into your lungs for you to exhale. The hemoglobin test measures the level of hemoglobin found in your blood.
17. Hemoglobinopathy Evaluation
A hemoglobinopathy evaluation identifies if an individual has an abnormal form of hemoglobin. In addition, this test also measures to see if there's a decreased level of hemoglobin found in the blood.
18. Intrinsic Factor Antibody
Intrinsic factor antibodies are a type of protein that your immune system produces when fighting against pernicious anemia. If there's a positive detection for this antibody in your blood, it can be an indicator that you have pernicious anemia.
19. Iron, Total and Total Iron Binding Capacity
A total iron test measures the level of iron in your blood. A total iron-binding capacity identifies how well iron is moving throughout your body.
20. Methylmalonic Acid
Methylmalonic acid is created when your body digests protein. If there's an elevated level of methylmalonic acid found in your blood, it's a sign that you have a Vitamin B-12 deficiency.
21. Parietal Cell Antibody
Parietal cells are created when your body needs to absorb Vitamin B12. A parietal cell antibody blood testidentifies antibodies that are fighting against the parietal cells in your stomach.
22. Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT, aPTT)
Partial thromboplastin time is also referred to as activated partial thromboplastin time, which is a screening test that identifies how well your body is able to form a blood clot.
23. Prothrombin Time and International Normalized Ratio (PT/INR)
A prothrombin time test is used to identify a bleeding disorder or if you have an excessive clotting disorder. An international normalized ratio is calculated based on the results of your prothrombin time results.
24. Reticulocyte Count
A reticulocyte count is a type of blood test that measures how quickly your bone marrows produce red blood cells and release these cells into your blood. If there's an elevated level of reticulocyte (immature red blood cells), it's a tool that's used to diagnose hemolytic anemia.
25. Sickle Cell Screen
A sickle cell blood test identifies any misformed red blood cells, which is a tool that's used to diagnose sickle cell anemia.
26. Soluble Transferrin Receptor
Soluble transferrin receptors are a type of protein that is found in the blood when a person is experiencing an elevated level of iron deficiency. By measuring the total amount of soluble transferrin receptors, this blood test is used as a tool to diagnose anemia.
Transferrin is a protein that's responsible for binding iron in the blood for transportation. By testing the total level of transferrin the blood, medical professionals can identify how well your body is able to bind iron.
28. Urine Culture
A urine culture is tested to identify the presence of bacteria in the urine, which could be a result of an infection in the urethra. If you're experiencing abdominal pain, a urine culture may be ordered by your medical professional to rule out a UTI.
29. Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
The Vitamin B12 blood test is an important test used in detecting Crohn's disease. In individuals that have undiagnosed Crohn's, their small intestine doesn't properly absorb nutrients, which is why a Vitamin B12 blood test is essential in receiving a proper diagnosis.
30. White Blood Cell Count (WBC)
A white blood cell count blood test is used to identify the level of white blood cells in your bloodstream. If your WBC test results are elevated, it's a sign that your body is fighting off inflammation or an infection somewhere in your body. This WBC test is included in the CBC test.
Lactoferrin tests require a stool sample to detect the levels of inflammation in the intestines. The lactoferrin protein is released by a neutrophil, which is a type of white blood cell. When there's inflammation in your digestive tract, neutrophil will release lactoferrin.
An elevated level of this protein in your stool is an indicator that your intestines are inflamed.
Another type of protein that's released by neutrophil (a type of white blood cell), a calprotectin test requires a stool sample to identify if elevated levels of this protein are found in your stool. This test is used as a way to identify if there's inflammation in your intestines.
33. Antineutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibodies
Used to exclude or diagnose microscopy polyangiitis, antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies that are created to fight against antibodies that are located in the cytoplasmic granules of monocytes and neutrophils.
34. ANCA Screen with Reflex to ANCA Titer
An ANCA screen with reflex to ANCA titer test is used to identify anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies. The discovery of these antibodies has been found in individuals with autoimmune hepatitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn's disease.
35. ANCA Screen with MPO and PR3, with Reflex to ANCA Titer
ANCA screen with MP0 and PR3, with reflex to ANCA titer, is another test that's used to identify anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies. These antibodies have been identified in individuals that have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases.
36. ANCA Vasculitides
By testing for ANCA vasculitides (an abbreviation for anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies), medical professionals are able to use this blood test to develop a diagnosis for bowel diseases.
37. IgG, IgA, Indirect Immunofluorescence
The IgG, IgA, indirect immunofluorescence test provides medical professionals with a tool to identify the titer and presence of the circulating anti-epithelial cell and antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies.
38. Proteinase-3 Antibody
The proteinase-3 antibody blood test is a serologic marker for active granulomatosis. A positive test result for these antibodies aids in the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease.
39. Myeloperoxidase Antibody (MPO)
A myeloperoxidase antibody blood test identifies this antibody in individuals who are suspected of having inflammatory bowel disease. A positive blood test for this antibody is an indication of the possibility of one of several diseases, such as IBD.
40. Inflammatory Bowel Disease Differentiation Panel
The inflammatory bowel disease differentiation panel is a useful tool for medical professionals that provide them with the ability to distinguish a diagnosis between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis if you've reported symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease.
Other IBD Diagnostic Tests
In addition to blood tests, proper diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease also requires other diagnostic tests. First, your doctor will likely order standard diagnostic procedures to visualize your digestive tract like:
- A colonoscopy views your entire colon with a long flexible tube
- An upper endoscopy views your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine
- A flexible sigmoidoscopy views the last part of your colon
Nowadays, many doctors order a capsule endoscopy. With capsule endoscopy, you swallow a capsule with a camera inside. This capsule travels through your entire digestive tract while taking pictures. The images then transmit to your doctor, and the capsule comes out in your stool when it's finished.
Endoscopic procedures allow for biopsies of your digestive tract so a pathologist can look for inflammation and signs of IBD.
You'll also have to get different scans and images. Standard imaging tests include:
- An x-ray of your entire abdomen to rule out severe complications
- A CT scan of your small and large intestines
- An MRI can take detailed images of your organs and tissues
Often, patients must do a specialized CT scan called a CT Enterography. This CT is a specialized CT scan that gives clear images of your intestines and bowels. A CT enterography requires you to drink a large amount of barium right before the scan.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease Treatment
There are different treatments for IBD, depending on your symptoms and severity. Usually, the first step in treating Crohn's disease or Ulcerative colitis involves medications.
IBD medications focus on reducing inflammation and regulating the immune system. Steroids, immunosuppressants like Methotrexate, and biologics like Humira are common choices. Often people take probiotics and antidiarrheal medications too.
Sometimes diet changes are helpful as certain foods will aggravate your digestive tract due to inflammation. Eating less sugar and carbohydrates is helpful. Most doctors recommend you increase your protein, vitamin, and mineral intake.
Sometimes despite medications and diet changes, you can still get severe IBD that causes blockages and scarring. In this case, people turn to surgical options.
Options for IBD surgery are the removal of sections of the damaged colon. If the damaged area is large enough, a temporary or permanent colostomy is put into place.
Frequently Asked Questions
It's overwhelming to face the diagnosis of a new condition. There are so many questions and so much research ahead. It's best to start with the answers to the most commonly asked questions about IBD.
- There is no cure for IBD
- IBD is a chronic and lifelong condition
- You will likely have to take medications for the rest of your life
- You will still have to take maintenance medications when you feel well
- Sometimes IBD becomes milder after the age of 60
- You'll need more frequent colonoscopies
Remember, IBD is for life, but there is so much you can do these days to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
IBD Blood Tests
Remember, inflammatory bowel disease doesn't have to run your life. You can take charge by using Ulta Lab Tests for your IBD blood tests.
Ulta Lab Tests are secure, confidential, and affordable. You don't need insurance or a doctor's referral.
When you order an inflammatory bowel disease lab test, you'll have secure and confidential results available to you within 24 to 48 hours.
Our testing process is the easiest in the industry. We work alongside Quest Diagnostics to provide reliable analysis of samples collected at certified facilities.
The entire procedure takes only a few days, with the test itself requiring roughly 30 minutes. Of course, some of the more complex test panels can take slightly longer.
Don't gamble with your future. Get a clear snapshot of your health and medical condition with a full suite of tests provided by Ulta Lab Tests. Make sure you contact us today to take charge of your health tomorrow.