Symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease may first prompt a visit to your family doctor or general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in treating digestive disorders (gastroenterologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of information to discuss, 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 restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you made the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, including over-the-counter medications and any vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember everything during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions beforehand may help you make the most of your visit. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For inflammatory bowel disease, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's causing these symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- Are there any medications that I should avoid?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- What sort of follow-up care do I need? How often do I need a colonoscopy?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Do I need to follow any dietary restrictions?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- Is there a risk to me or my child if I become pregnant?
- Is there a risk of complications to my partner's pregnancy if I have IBD and father a child?
- What is the risk to my child of developing IBD if I have it?
- Are there support groups for people with IBD and their families?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or intermittent?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Do you have abdominal pain?
- Have you had diarrhea? How often?
- Do you awaken from sleep during the night because of diarrhea?
- Is anyone else in your home sick with diarrhea?
- Have you lost weight unintentionally?
- Have you ever had liver problems, hepatitis or jaundice?
- Have you had problems with your joints, eyes or skin — including rashes and sores — or had sores in your mouth?
- Do you have a family history of inflammatory bowel disease?
- Do your symptoms affect your ability to work or do other activities?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- Is there anything that you've noticed that makes your symptoms worse?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), for example, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve) or diclofenac sodium (Voltaren)?
- Have you taken antibiotics recently?
- Have you recently traveled? If so, where?