10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About IBD

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Recently been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)? You may find all the new information and terminology surrounding the condition overwhelming. Here are some questions to ask your doctor to help get the conversation started.


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What kind of IBD do I have?

There are two different diseases that are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). One is ulcerative colitis, and one is Crohn's disease. While the symptoms may be similar, they require different treatments and management techniques. Be sure you know what specific IBD you have.


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What part of my digestive system is affected?

The answer to this question will help your doctor decide how best to treat your symptoms. Different parts of the digestive system respond differently to each treatment and medication. It is also helpful to familiarize yourself with your digestive system and the functions of each organ.


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What treatment or medication is recommended?

IBD treatments (for both Crohn's and ulcerative colitis) are highly specific to the individual patient and may involve everything from specialized diets, steroid treatments and, perhaps, surgery, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. IBD can also cause other ailments such as malnutrition and anemia.


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When will the symptoms subside?

Some medications and treatments will take more time than others to take effect. Make sure you leave your doctor's office with a good sense of when you should expect to feel better.


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What are the side effects of my treatment?

Make sure you are fully aware of the side effects that your treatment (medication or otherwise) may have. Furthermore, ask your doctor which side effects are normal and which to ask about.


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How should I change my diet?

Because IBD and diet are so closely related, you will most certainly have to change some aspect of your diet. Be sure to leave the doctor's office with a very clear idea of what you can and cannot eat with your condition. It is most helpful to have some materials and resources to take home with you that you can use while grocery shopping and cooking.


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What symptoms should I worry about?

IBD flares will be a part of your life and will come with certain symptoms. Your doctor will educate you on how to deal with these flares, but make sure you know which symptoms or reactions are normal and which require medical attention.


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Will I need to see a specialist?

If you are not already working with a specialist (typically IBD patients work with a gastroenterologist), you will want to find out if your doctor recommends a specialist for your condition and, if so, how he or she will communicate with the new specialist regarding your care.


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What other lifestyle changes should I make?

In addition to the particular treatment your doctor prescribes, you should ask about other lifestyle changes that may alleviate your symptoms, such as getting more exercise, smoking cessation, etc.


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How often should I see a doctor for follow-up care?

Get an idea from your doctor about how often you should receive follow-up care, including blood work and other screening tests. This schedule will change over time as your condition changes. The most important thing is to keep the line of communication between you and your doctor open.