Working with your doctor
A better doctor visit
Do all your questions seem unimportant or embarrassing as soon as you get into the examination room? Getting the most effective treatment for your ulcerative colitis (UC) means making the most of your doctor visits. Preparing for your visit might help you bring up even tough subjects with your doctor.
People with UC are often embarrassed by their illness and don't want to talk about it. This can cause a communication gap between patient and doctor.
A study of patients with UC and doctors helps illustrate just how patient perceptions differ from those of their physicians.
- 34% of respondents said that sometimes they did not want to tell their doctors about flare-ups, and 27% reported they discussed fewer than half of their flare-ups with their doctors
- Patients with UC reported they had an average of 8 flare-ups per year. Gastroenterologists who participated in the survey said that 3 flare-ups per year were typical among their patients
- Only 21% of patients said they felt they had their UC completely or mostly under control, while gastroenterologists reported they thought that number was closer to 48%
- While gastroenterologists believed that about 28% of patients felt living with UC was a daily struggle, in reality, it is 61%, as reported by patients
- Additionally, 84% of patients said they worry about the long-term health effects of UC
Doctors understand symptoms. Try these tips and conversation starters to make sure you are effectively communicating your needs with your medical professional.
Write it down
- Make a list of your most important questions or concerns—especially those difficult-to-ask or embarrassing ones—and prioritize them. Having your questions written down will make them easier to ask
- Bring a list of all your medications and supplements, including vitamins, over-the-counter remedies, and prescriptions
- Even if you have become used to your symptoms and try to think of them as no big deal, your doctor needs to know about them. It is common for patients with UC to underreport their symptoms, but telling your doctor about all of your symptoms is crucial to your treatment plan
- Make a list to record your UC symptoms and bring it to your appointment to share with your doctor.
- Bring a notepad and pen to take notes during your appointment
Bring it up
The answers you get depend on the questions you ask. Whether it is about your diagnosis, prognosis, side effects, managing your symptoms, or diet and exercise that might affect your UC, your questions could hold the key to the most effective treatment for you. For example, you might want to ask:
- Are there any medications that I can take once a day?
- Are there ulcerative colitis medications that I can take with or without food?
- Repeat back to your doctor some of the key points from the visit. It will help you both clarify things and make sure you have not gotten confused
- Make sure you understand what you should do when you leave the doctor's office—such as taking your medication as prescribed. Even make a note of when you should follow up with your doctor
- Do not leave the office without a clear understanding of the potential side effects of your medication and what warning signs you need to look out for