When you visit your doctor you will want to know what is wrong, what the physician can do to treat it, and what you can do to better manage it. Your physician will begin by taking a history asking for a description of the symptoms as well as possible factors that can bring them on or make them better. This will be followed by a physical examination, possibly diagnostic tests, a diagnosis, and a discussion of treatment options.

Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), though chronic or recurrent, can vary in duration, intensity, and description. Management of symptoms often is not easy and requires individual participation while working with a physician or healthcare provider. Don't be afraid to ask questions; write them down before your appointment. As a patient with IBS, you should never feel devalued, ignored, or uncomfortable with your doctor. If you do, or if your concerns are not being met, it is time to change to another physician. Your goal is to obtain a diagnosis, understand IBS and your symptoms, and develop a management or treatment plan designed to meet your individual needs.

The course of IBS is highly individualized and can be challenging to even the most knowledgeable and caring physician. Be organized when you visit your doctor. Here are some things you can do to help make your physician visit most effective.

Talking to your doctor worksheet

List your symptoms and how frequently they occur. Try to be as specific as you can. For example, describe where pain is located, how often it occurs, and what makes it worse or better. Keeping a daily diary for a couple of weeks that lists symptoms and associated activities can help sort this out.

Symptom Description Frequency
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Provide your doctor with a list of all other chronic illness currently affecting your health, or of prior infectious gastrointestinal illness.

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List all prescription and nonprescription (over-the-counter) medications as well as herbal supplements you currently take. Include dosage and frequency.

Medication Dosage Frequency
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Inform your doctor of any previous gastrointestinal procedures or tests. Samples would include colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, endoscopy, and ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography).

Year Procedure/Test Results
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Inform your doctor of any previous surgeries, especially abdominal or gastrointestinal surgeries.

Year Surgery
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Use the space below to write down any other questions you may have for your doctor or to take notes during the appointment. It is imperative that you walk away from your doctor's appointment with a clear understanding of what he or she tells you. Therefore, do not be hesitant to ask questions.

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Adapted from IFFGD Publication #185.

Last modified on September 15, 2014 at 12:09:37 PM

Working with Doctor

patient doctor

Successful relationships with healthcare providers are an important part of managing life with a long-term digestive disorder.

Working with Your Physician

Doctor Visit Worksheet

How to Talk to Your Doctor