Make an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner if you think you may have a disease or condition that could lead to esophageal varices. If you're experiencing signs and symptoms of internal bleeding, you may be told to immediately call 911 or your local emergency number to be taken to the hospital for urgent care. There you will be evaluated by a doctor who specializes in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for an appointment.
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. For example, you may need to stop eating and drinking the night before your appointment.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses, recent life changes or recent travels. Also note your diet and exercise habits, including whether you use alcohol and if so, how much.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including other conditions you're being treated for and the names of the medications that you're taking. Include on your list every prescription and over-the-counter drug you use, as well as any vitamins and supplements.
- Take a family member or friend along to help you remember questions to ask and what your doctor says.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to ask your doctor
Some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What treatments do you recommend right now?
- What is the risk of my symptoms recurring?
- If I develop bleeding again, what treatments will we try next?
- What are the side effects of the treatments for this condition?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Is there anything I can do to prevent a recurrence of this problem?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Be ready to answer questions your doctor may ask:
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms stayed the same or gotten worse?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What have your stools looked like recently? Have they contained blood or are they black?
- Have you been vomiting blood or black material?
- Have you had symptoms of vomiting blood in the past?
- Have you noticed a decrease in how often you urinate?
- Have you been more thirsty than usual?
- Have you felt fatigued or lightheaded?
- Have you felt more forgetful, confused or less able to concentrate?
- Have you lost weight?
- Have you noticed any swelling of your abdomen or legs?
- Have you ever had hepatitis or yellowing of your eyes or skin (jaundice)?
- Have you traveled recently? Where?
- Have you been diagnosed or treated for any other medical conditions? When?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- Do you or did you drink alcohol? How much?
What you can do in the meantime
If you develop bloody vomit or stools while you're waiting for your appointment, call 911 or your local emergency number or go to an emergency room immediately.
March 15, 2013
- Feldman M, et al. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, Management. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-6189-2..X0001-7--TOP&isbn=978-1-4160-6189-2&about=true&uniqId=229935664-2192. Accessed Sept. 12, 2010.
- Prevention and management of gastroesophageal varices and variceal hemorrhage in cirrhosis. Alexandria, Va.: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. http://www.aasld.org/practiceguidelines/Documents/Bookmarked%20Practice%20Guidelines/Prevention%20and%20Management%20of%20Gastro%20Varices%20and%20Hemorrhage.pdf. Accessed Sept. 12, 2010.
- Bope ET, et al. Conn's Current Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2013. Http://www.mdconsult.com/books/about.do?about=true&eid=$eid&isbn=978-1-4557-0295-4&uniqId=398813857-1936. Accessed Jan. 22, 2013.
- Coelho-Prabhu N et al. Current staging and diagnosis of gastroesophageal varices. Clinical Liver Disease. 2010; 14: 195.
- AskMayoExpert. Esophageal varices. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2012.
- What I need to know about cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis_ez/#prevent. Accessed Jan. 29, 2013.
- Schistosomiasis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/schistosomiasis/gen_info/faqs.html. Accessed Jan. 29, 2013.