Suffer from stomach pain & diarrhea? 

This could be Crohn’s disease, which can be diagnosed by swallowing a pill that has a camera.

Crohn’s disease often presents with two key symptoms: diarrhea and stomach or abdominal pain. The diagnosis can be missed by more common tests, resulting in a misdiagnosis.


For example, 24-year-old Sarah had been suffering from diarrhea and abdominal pain, and underwent many tests, getting no answers.

Finally she was given the PillCam SB, and was diagnosed correctly with Crohn’s disease.

What is Crohn’s?

It’s a type of Inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any point along the GI tract, and other than abdominal or stomach pain and diarrhea, can also cause blood in the stools, ulcers, appetite suppression, weight loss, fatigue, arthritis, fever, skin disorders, mouth sores and an inflamed liver.

These symptoms, particularly if limited to diarrhea and stomach pain, can also mean many other conditions. Thus, if you suffer from abdominal pain or cramping, and diarrhea, it’s crucial to get an accurate diagnosis.

There’s no cure for Crohn’s, and in three-quarters of patients, lesions exist in the small bowel.

Historically, it’s been difficult for doctors to visualize via instruments the small bowel.

Yet this area is crucial for ongoing monitoring for Crohn’s patients, even when symptoms are in remission. In fact, this disorder can progress in the bowel without a symptom presentation.

Options for the direct visualization of the gastrointestinal tract need to be discussed amongst patients and their physicians, says Joel R. Rosh, MD, director of pediatric gastroenterology, Goryeb Children’s Hospital/Atlantic Health in NJ.

Many patients, continues Dr. Rosh, express a concern over the exposure of radiation from conventional tests. Many also don’t like the sedation involved.

To assess activity of the Crohn’s condition, doctors typically use a CAT scan, which emits radiation.

“Traditionally, most of the small bowel could only be visualized with X-rays,” says Dr. Rosh, “which can miss important diagnostic details,” plus expose people to undesirable radiation levels.

Camera in a Pill: PillCam SB

PillCam SB is capsule endoscopy, a non-invasive, non-radiation method of viewing the lining of the lower bowel, yielding a better view than what a CT scan can deliver.

PillCam SB is a “convenient and accurate tool for monitoring disease activity and response to therapy,” Dr. Rosh says.

How big is the FDA-approved PillCam SB?

It’s 11 mm x 26 mm and contains an imaging device plus light source. It rapidly transmits images, totaling over 50,000 pictures per procedure duration.

Patients as young as two years can use this device, considered the gold standard for evaluating the small bowel.

For those with Crohn’s disease or any disorder who are concerned about any risks from PillCam SB, those risks include retention or aspiration of the capsule, or skin irritation. The endoscopic placement of the capsule may also pose some risks.

If you have unexplained stomach pain and/or diarrhea, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.