Talking to your doctor
Bringing a more honest relationship with your doctor to life
Not everyone is the same, and the symptoms of ulcerative colitis (UC) can range in severity from person to person. The important symptoms are the ones that affect you. That is why we have developed this interactive, customized conversation starter. You can choose the topics that are important to you, and bring the questions to your appointments.
If your symptoms return and you are feeling embarrassed about having to go to the bathroom all the time, tell your doctor just that—you are embarrassed. It will alert your doctor to be sensitive to your feelings about your symptoms, without ignoring or minimizing them.
The same goes for rectal bleeding. Of course, this may be a symptom you are used to dealing with because of your UC. But it is an important part of your condition that your doctor needs to know about. In fact, your doctor may have just what you need to reduce or stop the bleeding.
Do not be afraid to talk about diarrhea. Even though society doles out bathroom humor in large doses, diarrhea is no laughing matter. It is a serious and often debilitating symptom of ulcerative colitis, and your doctor sees no reason for embarrassment about it. Even if you have gotten really good at handling your flare-ups and accepting your condition, your doctor will only know its full impact if you tell him or her about it.
The same goes for symptoms like cramping or gas. If you are experiencing these symptoms, your doctor may be able to help you find a solution. Tell him or her about it. It is the only way your doctor can help.
Diet and exercise
Living with UC, you know more about how your body reacts to what you do or eat. Keeping a daily log of meals and exercise might help reassure you and your doctor, as will asking your doctor questions like the following:
- Will certain foods or drinks make my symptoms worse?
- Are there certain foods or drinks that I should try to include in my diet?
- Are there activities or exercises that will relieve or reduce my symptoms?
Although stress may not cause UC, anxiety over having the condition may worsen symptoms. In one survey, 82% of patients with UC said their condition made life more stressful. See how your doctor can help. Ask:
- How does stress affect my UC?
- What can I do to reduce my stress about having flare-ups?
- How can I feel less stressed about my condition and more in control?
Your doctor knows your symptoms and will not be surprised about any question you ask, including the following:
- Am I taking any medications that could affect my sex drive?
- When should I tell a person I am in a relationship with about my condition?
- Are there resources available to help me deal with relationship problems I am experiencing because of UC?
Your doctor has heard it all before. Do not feel embarrassed to ask questions like the following:
- Do you have any suggestions for how to talk to my partner about my UC and how it affects our relationship?
- Can you refer me to a therapist or a support group that may be able to help me with this issue?
For whatever reason, if you are too uncomfortable to bring these kinds of things up with your gastroenterologist, it is important to find a doctor you can talk to about it. You might want to try your primary care physician or gynecologist.
If you are feeling depressed about your UC, your doctor can find resources to help you feel good about yourself again. Don't be afraid to ask your doctor point-blank:
- Are there signs of depression I should watch out for?
- Can you refer me to a counselor who has worked with other UC patients?
It is normal to wonder what your condition could mean for your overall health in the long term. Reassure yourself by asking your doctor:
- Should I be worried about taking so much medication for too long?
- When should I schedule my next appointment?
- How often should I see a doctor?
- What types of screenings or tests should I have done to ensure I stay healthy?