by Polsdorfer R

Talking to Your Doctor About Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with IBS. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care. For this condition in particular, a good doctor-patient relationship makes a big difference in your quality of life.

General Tips for Gathering Information

Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
  • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
  • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
  • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
  • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

About the Diagnosis of IBS
  • Have you exhausted the other possible diagnoses?
  • Do you think bacterial overgrowth is worth looking into?
  • Do you think celiac disease is worth looking into?
About Your Risk of Developing Complications
  • I need to be reassured that this problem is not progressive or a prelude to cancer or other serious condition. Are there symptoms that might indicate IBS is progressing to something more serious?
About Treatment Options
  • What treatments are available to me?
  • What medications can I try?
    • What benefits and side effects can I expect from these medications?
    • Will any of these medications interact with other supplements or over-the-counter products I'm taking?
  • What do you think of alternative treatments for IBS?
About Lifestyle Changes
  • Beyond what I have done to manage my symptoms, have you any further suggestions?
  • Can you refer me to a registered dietitian who can help me with adjusting my diet?
  • Will exercise help my symptoms?
  • Should I tell me family?
About Outlook
  • Do you know of any clinical trials for IBS?
  • Is there any new research that might make this condition easier to cope with in the future?
  • Can you recommend a support group?

References

Fauci AS, Braunwald E, Isselbacher KJ, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2000.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113627/Irritable-bowel-syndrome-IBS. Updated March 17, 2017. Accessed May 25, 2017.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs/irritable-bowel-syndrome-ibs. Updated April 2016. Accessed May 25, 2017.
Tips for talking to your doctor. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor. Updated May 2014. Accessed December 18, 2015.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2017
  • Update Date: 12/20/2014

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