Preparing for a visit to the doctor

Visiting your doctor about bowel problems can feel embarrassing or frightening. It’s important to remember that your doctor is very familiar with dealing with a variety of embarrassing conditions and will in no way feel uncomfortable if you talk about your bowel symptoms.

Being well prepared for your visit will help you to feel more empowered and take in any information you need. Below are some tips for preparing a visit to the doctor. So whether you’re seeing your doctor for the first time and don’t know if you have IBD, or if you have been diagnosed with IBD, these tips will help you to get the most out of a visit to your doctor.

Seeing your doctor for bowel problems

Symptoms

Discuss all the symptoms you have – whether these seem to be related to your bowel or not. These might include:

  • Diarrhoea (Diarrhea)
  • Constipation
  • Blood in the stools
  • Soreness or a spot/boil around the anus
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Feeling generally out of sorts

Use our Symptom Checker before your visit to your doctor – it can help you record your symptoms. You may find it easier to talk about your symptoms with a print-out of the results.

Medication

Prepare a list of all of the medications you are taking. This includes any alternative/complementary therapies you may be taking as well as any medication you get from the pharmacy.

Clothing

Wear loose clothing in case your doctor needs to do a physical examination.

Seeing your IBD Specialist

If you are diagnosed with IBD, you will be referred to an IBD specialist. This is generally a doctor in the hospital who has lots of experience dealing with patients like you.

When you visit your specialist you may also want to:

  • Prepare questions: These might include:
    • Which part(s) of my digestive system are affected? (You can find out more about this in our ‘Learn about IBD’ section)
    • How long will it be before I start to feel better?
    • How long will I need to keep taking my medication?
    • What are the side effects of the medication I am taking?
    • Will it react with medications I’m already taking?
    • Is there any condition other than IBD that may be contributing to my symptoms?
    • If I have flare-up symptoms, when should I call you? What symptoms are emergencies and when should I wait to see my doctor?
    • How often do we need to meet? When is my next visit?
    • Do I need more tests? If so, when/how often?
    • Will my IBD get worse?
    • Are there any other healthcare professionals I should see, such as a gastro nurse, dietician/nutritionist, psychologist, etc.)?
    • What lifestyle changes do I need to make?
    • Should I avoid certain foods or medications to prevent a flare-up?
    • Will I have an IBD action plan?
    • Can my IBD lead to colon cancer?
    • Will I need surgery?
  • Bring a notebook with you to jot down answers – there is going to be a lot of detail to be covered. Go over your notes later and write down any follow-up questions you may have for your next visit
  • Ask your IBD specialist to discuss blood and other test results with you
  • Keep a food and/or symptoms journal and bring this with you. This may be used to see what foods make your symptoms worse and can help to put together your IBD action plan
  • Bring your IBD action plan form with you so you can work with your specialist to fill out the relevant information

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