If you have signs or symptoms that worry you, make an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner. If you're diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis, you may be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the digestive system (gastroenterologist) or a doctor who specializes in liver diseases (hepatologist).
Because there's often a lot of ground to cover during your appointment, it's a good idea to arrive 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 scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements that you're taking.
- Ask a family member or friend to come with you. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all of the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For primary biliary cirrhosis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need to confirm the diagnosis? Do these tests require any special preparation?
- How severe is the damage to my liver?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend for me?
- What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
- Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- What's my prognosis?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any dietary or activity restrictions that I need to follow?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions that come to mind 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. Your doctor may ask:
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- What types of symptoms have you been experiencing?
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with primary biliary cirrhosis?
- Do you have any chronic health conditions?
- Angulo P, et al. Primary biliary cirrhosis. In: 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 Oct. 5, 2011.
- Liver biopsy. Alexandria, Va.: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. http://www.aasld.org/practiceguidelines/Documents/Bookmarked%20Practice%20Guidelines/PrimaryBillaryCirrhosis7-2009.pdf. Accessed Oct. 5, 2011.
- Primary biliary cirrhosis. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/primarybiliarycirrhosis/index.aspx. Accessed Oct. 5, 2011.
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