Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

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. This may help your doctor identify what triggers symptom episodes.
  • 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 medical records of those tests to your appointment.
  • Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
  • 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:

  • Do I have IBS?
  • What other conditions might I have?
  • Are there any other possible causes for my condition?
  • What diagnostic tests do I need?
  • 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?
  • Should I follow any specific diet?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to help reduce or manage my symptoms?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Do you recommend that I talk with a counselor?
  • 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 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 any 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 or colon cancer?
  • 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?

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. 09, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.