Preparing for your appointment

You may start by seeing your primary care provider. Or, you may be referred immediately to a doctor who specializes in treating digestive conditions (gastroenterologist).

Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.

What you can do

When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before having a specific test. Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
  • Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life changes and family medical history
  • All medications, vitamins or other supplements you take, including the doses
  • Questions to ask your doctor

Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember the information you're given.

For fecal incontinence, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's likely causing my symptoms?
  • Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What tests do I need?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What's the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions. Will treatment for fecal incontinence complicate my care for these conditions?
  • Are there restrictions I need to follow?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Are there brochures or other printed material I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you several questions, such as:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • 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 you avoid any activities because of your symptoms?
  • Do you have other conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis or chronic constipation?
  • Do you have diarrhea?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease?
  • Have you ever had radiation therapy to your pelvic area?
  • Were forceps used or did you have an episiotomy during childbirth?
  • Do you also have urinary incontinence?

What you can do in the meantime

Avoid foods or activities that worsen your symptoms. This might include avoiding caffeine, fatty or greasy foods, dairy products, spicy foods, or anything that makes your incontinence worse.

Dec. 19, 2015
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  6. Bharucha AE, et al. Epidemiology, pathophysiology, and classification of fecal incontinence: State of the science summary for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Workshop. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2015;110:127.
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  12. Paquette IM, et al. The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons’ clinical practice guideline for the treatment of fecal incontinence. Diseases of the Colon & Rectum. 2015;58:623.
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