Make an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms of IBS. After an initial evaluation, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist) for more extensive testing.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, and for how long. In addition, it may be helpful to keep a food diary and make note if a food seems to make your symptoms worse. It will help your doctor to know whether your symptoms come and go and what foods, if any, seem to trigger their occurrence.
- Write down key personal information, including any recent changes or stressors in your life. These factors can play a key role in the frequency and severity of IBS symptoms.
- Make a list of your key medical information, including any other conditions for which you're being treated and the names of any medications, vitamins or supplements you're taking. If you've been medically evaluated for your symptoms in the past, bring records of those tests to your appointment.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor. Creating your list of questions in advance can help you make the most of your time with your doctor.
For IBS, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What do you think is causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for my condition?
- What diagnostic tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- What treatment approach do you recommend trying first?
- If the first treatment doesn't work, what will we try next?
- Are there any side effects associated with these treatments?
- Do you suspect that dietary factors are playing a role in my symptoms?
- What dietary changes are most likely to reduce my symptoms?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to help reduce or manage my symptoms?
- Is my condition chronic?
- How much do you expect my condition may improve with treatment, including self-care?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask additional 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 reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- Do your symptoms come and go or stay about the same?
- Does anything seem to trigger your symptoms, including certain foods, stress or — in women — your menstrual period?
- Have you lost weight without trying?
- Have you noticed any blood in your stools?
- Have your signs and symptoms included vomiting?
- Have your signs and symptoms included fever?
- Have you recently experienced significant stress, emotional difficulty or loss?
- What is your typical daily diet?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with a food allergy or with lactose intolerance?
- Have you been diagnosed with any other medical conditions?
- What medications are you taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, and supplements?
- Do you have any family history of bowel disorders?
- How much would you say your symptoms are affecting your quality of life, including your personal relationships and your ability to function at school or work?
- Do you have persistent abdominal pain or is your pain relieved by a bowel movement?
What you can do in the meantime
While you wait for your appointment, check with your family members to find out if any relatives have been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease or colon cancer. In addition, start jotting down notes about how often your symptoms occur and any factors that seem to trigger their occurrence.
Jul. 29, 2011
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- Frequently asked questions. International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders. http://www.aboutibs.org/site/about-ibs/faq. Accessed June 7, 2011.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merck.com/mmpe/sec02/ch021666/ch021666a.html. Accessed June 7, 2011.
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