Day 6 - Learning

Doctors' visits and medical options for IBS

Day 6 Task List

1. Try to find a doctor you can establish an ongoing, helpful relationship with regarding your IBS.

2. Have a trial run with a prescription medication for your symptoms, and remember that if the drug doesn't help, there are many other options for you to try.

Although IBS cannot be managed on a day-to-day basis by a physician (that's up to you), it is important to establish and maintain a good working relationship with the family doctor or gastroenterologist who will be treating your symptoms. This may not be as simple you'd wish.[1]

Unfortunately, the word many IBS patients currently use to describe their relationship with doctors is "frustrating." Although a minority of IBS patients think their physicians are wonderful, most are dissatisfied, and feel that doctors need to better understand IBS and the difficulties it creates in their lives.[2] This is why it is crucial that you feel in partnership with your physician. As you learn how to take responsibility for your health it will be of great assistance to have your doctor's help, support, advice, and understanding in the matter. Your doctor should listen, ask questions, make suggestions, and be empathetic. If your doctor does not view IBS as a legitimate medical disorder and fails to offer enough time to help you take control of your symptoms, you need to find a new doctor.

If you don't have any friends or family members who can recommend a good gastroenterologist, try asking a favorite doctor of yours in a different field who they would go see if they had IBS. If you've joined a support group (which we'll address in Month 3) see if any of the members are happy with their physicians, or post a request for recommendations from other patients at the IBS Support Boards or iBS Message Boards.

Once you've found a satisfactory doctor and established a good working relationship, he or she should educate you about IBS and treat it as they would any other chronic disorder, with a focus on managing your symptoms. What can you fairly expect your doctor to do? [3]

1. Acknowledge the pain

2. Hold an empathetic and non-judgmental point of view

3. Educate and reassure you

4. Set reasonable goals

5. Help you, the patient, take responsibility

6. Know his or her limitations and refer you to specialists if necessary

I would also add that you can expect a good doctor (especially a gastroenterologist) to be well-informed about the effects of diet and stress on IBS. What you cannot expect from your doctor is a cure. Currently there isn't one.

Questions to ask your doctor

1. Do my symptoms truly match those of IBS?

2. Have you run the diagnostic tests necessary to rule out:

Colon cancer
Inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis)
Bowel obstructions
Food allergies
Celiac (a genetic, autoimmune disorder resulting in gluten intolerance)
Bacterial infections
Intestinal parasites
Ovarian cancer

3. What prescription drugs do you recommend for me, and why? What if they don't work? What about side effects?

4. Are there any new medical options for IBS on the horizon?

5. How should I keep myself informed about current IBS research?

6. Should I schedule a follow-up visit with you? When?

7. What about diet?

8. What about stress management?

9. What about alternative therapies?

10. What types of supplements, fiber or otherwise, do you recommend?

11. Do you know of any IBS support groups in my area?

12. Can you recommend any good books or literature on the subject?

13. What do you think is the best way to comprehensively manage my symptoms?

Click here to continue reading First Year: Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

[1] On average, doctors who treat IBS rate the pain felt by their IBS patients as being significantly less severe than the patients themselves report. Furthermore, a majority of doctors say that while IBS may be distressing, it is not a serious medical condition, despite the fact that three out of ten women with IBS report having been hospitalized for their abdominal symptoms at some point.

More than one in four women with IBS say that their doctor does not understand how much pain or discomfort they feel and that there is no point in consulting their doctor about their symptoms. Nearly a third of all U.S. physicians mistakenly believe that IBS is primarily a psychological problem. (Citations from the largest, most comprehensive national survey ever conducted on IBS, July/August 1999, by Schulman, Ronca and Bucuvalas, Inc., funded by Glaxo Wellcome.)

[2] Results from DrugVoice's IBSVoice survey of over 2,000 patients, one of the largest and most far-reaching studies of IBS patients ever conducted. Melissa Krauth, President, DrugVoice LLC, Update on IBSVoice Panel, February 23, 2001.

[3] Dr. Marvin Schuster, Director of the Marvin M Schuster Center for Digestive and Motility Disorders at John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore MD.

All content is copyrighted by Heather Van Vorous and MAY NOT BE REPRODUCED without permission. BBB Business Review