Preparing for your appointment

You'll likely first seek medical care for constipation from your family doctor or general practitioner. You may be referred to a specialist in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist) if your doctor suspects a more advanced case of constipation.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of information to cover, it's a good idea to be well-prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restricting your diet or eating certain high-fiber foods to prepare for diagnostic testing.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes, such as traveling or becoming pregnant.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins, supplements or herbal medications you're taking.
  • Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

For constipation, some questions you might want to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need, and how do I need to prepare for them?
  • Am I at risk of complications related to this condition?
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • If the initial treatment doesn't work, what will you recommend next?
  • Are there any dietary restrictions that I need to follow?
  • I have other medical problems. How can I manage these along with constipation?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time to go over additional questions you may have. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms of constipation?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • Do your symptoms include abdominal pain?
  • Do your symptoms include vomiting?
  • Have you recently lost weight without trying?
  • How many meals do you eat a day?
  • How much liquid, including water, do you drink a day?
  • Do you see blood with your bowel movements mixed in with the stool, in the toilet water or on the toilet paper?
  • Do you strain with your bowel movements?
  • Do you have any family history of digestive problems or colon cancer?
  • Have you been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
  • Have you started any new medications or recently changed the dosage of your current medications?