Public Relations & Advocacy Director, IFFGD
As with all chronic conditions, it’s important for those affected to be able to start a dialogue with those closest to them — family members, employers, and especially with their doctors or other health care providers.
To help get the conversation going, here are three tips for talking with your doctor about IBS:
1. Overcome your embarrassment
Most people wouldn’t hesitate to talk to their doctor about a cough or a headache, but up to 75 percent of people with IBS may go undiagnosed. Why is this? From very early on, we have been conditioned to think of bowel functions as embarrassing or shameful. Unfortunately, this conditioning stays with us throughout our lives and prevents many from discussing their symptoms and receiving care. By mentally overcoming this conditioning, you can start to think of your symptoms as you would any other body function and make your needs known.
2. Say the most important things first
The average office visit in a primary care setting is 15.7 minutes long. During this time, your doctor will review your recent medical history, ask general questions about your health, recommend routine tests or procedures, and maybe even fit in some time for small talk. It’s important that you get your most critical questions and concerns out first.
3. Be specific about your symptoms
IBS is a condition with unpredictable symptom courses. This can make rooting out a diagnosis and determining the best treatment plan difficult for doctors. To help narrow down options, they will often ask questions about your symptoms about where you feel pain, what makes it better or worse, and how long you’ve experienced symptoms. Having answers ready to these common questions can help your doctor come to a conclusion more quickly and accurately.
IBS is a complex condition, but talking about it shouldn’t be. By opening up to your doctor about your symptoms, you can work together towards a treatment plan that improves your symptoms and meets your health needs.
Tegan Gaetano, Public Relations & Advocacy Director, IFFGD, [email protected]