Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you suspect that you have ulcerative colitis, you're likely to start by first seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may then be referred to a doctor who specializes in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, 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 scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking. Be sure to let your doctor know if you're taking any herbal preparations, as well.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come with you. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all 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.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions ahead of time can help you make the most of your time. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For ulcerative colitis, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my 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?
  • What types of side effects can I expect from treatment?
  • Are there any prescription or over-the-counter medications I need to avoid?
  • 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?
  • Are there certain foods I can't eat anymore?
  • Will I be able to keep working?
  • Can I have children?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing me?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?

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 occasional?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Do you have abdominal pain?
  • Have you had diarrhea? How often?
  • Have you recently lost any weight unintentionally?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
  • Have you ever experienced liver problems, hepatitis or jaundice?
  • Have you ever taken the acne medication isotretinoin?
  • Have you had any problems with your joints, eyes, skin rashes or sores, or had sores in your mouth?
  • Do you awaken from sleep during the night because of diarrhea?
  • Have you recently traveled? If so, where?
  • Is anyone else in your home sick with diarrhea?
  • Have you taken antibiotics recently?
Oct. 10, 2012

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