Personalizing Care in Crohn’s Disease Management
Caregiving During Ulcerative Colitis Testing
Your loved one may feel anxious and need special care before and after ulcerative colitis testing. Your support can help ease their anxiety.
By Eric Berlin, MD
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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As a caregiver for someone with ulcerative colitis, you can better understand how and when you can be of assistance by becoming familiar with the medical tests and colitis treatments involved.
Knowing how the patient may feel or what they may need after a specific test allows you to provide better support. You will encounter many of the tests associated with ulcerative colitis soon after the onset of colitis symptoms, as part of the diagnostic process. After your loved one is diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, you can be there to listen and take notes as the doctor discusses colitis treatment options.
Ulcerative Colitis: Understanding Medical Tests
Initially you can help your loved one schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider and prepare individual and family medical histories. Your loved one may be feeling nervous, confused, and frustrated by colitis symptoms and the potential diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. This is a great time to encourage your loved one to get answers to questions that will help calm their fears and allow them to feel more empowered about colitis testing and treatment.
Here is an overview of tests that the ulcerative colitis patient may experience over the course of the disease:
- Physical examination.The doctor will evaluate your loved one's overall health and well-being as well as determine a baseline, or starting point, to track the progression of the disease and measure the success of future therapy.
- Blood tests.These are involved in diagnosing ulcerative colitis and in managing the effects of colitis treatment. Blood tests can help reveal inflammation, infection, antibodies (helpful when diagnosing colitis), and anemia, a low red-blood cell count that may result from bleeding in the colon.
- Stool tests.Checking the stool for bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections helps in diagnosing ulcerative colitis as well as in treating it. This test is also designed to detect blood in the stool.
- Endoscopy:Endoscopy procedures use a thin flexible tube with a small camera on the end to look inside the gastrointestinal tract. This allows the physician to diagnose and determine how advanced the disease is by looking for any inflammation, ulcers, and/or bleeding. The doctor may also do a biopsy of tissue inside the colon, which involves taking a sample (or samples) to be evaluated in the lab. Endoscopy procedures include:
- Colonoscopy.This test allows the physician to see the entire inside of the colon. Preparation for a colonoscopy requires that the patient consume only clear liquids for 24 hours before the test and drink a colon-cleaning solution the day before to flush out the entire bowel by inducing diarrhea. You can assist your loved one by mixing the cleansing solution, helping them get to the bathroom if necessary, and taking steps to manage their privacy within the household. After a colonoscopy, the patient may complain of distension and excessive gas — you can help by making their environment as comfortable as possible and helping to take care of responsibilities that he or she might not be able to handle while preparing for or recovering from the procedure.
- Sigmoidoscopy.This test allows the physician to see inside the lower half of the colon. Enemas are used the evening before and the morning of the procedure to empty the colon for the test. Most patients are able to tolerate this procedure well.
- X-rays.This procedure is used mainly to determine if any blockages are present in the intestines.
- X-rays with contrast.In these procedures, barium, a chalky liquid, is ingested or inserted into the colon to see which parts of the colon may be affected by disease activity. You should encourage your loved one to drink additional glasses of water after this procedure to flush out the barium from the colon.
- Computed tomography (CT scan).This test takes a 3D picture of the colon so that the doctor can determine whether any disease is present.
Compassion and support will go a long way toward caring for someone with ulcerative colitis. And being able to talk to your loved one in a matter-of-fact way will allow for a clearer understanding of what he or she might need before and after medical testing and colitis treatment.
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