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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?
- 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?
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 14, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
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 July 2013. Accessed December 18, 2015.
Tips for talking to your doctor. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/working-with-your-doctor/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.html. Updated May 2014. Accessed December 18, 2015.
- Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 12/2015
- Update Date: 12/20/2014