May 4, 2022 |  written by IVX Health

How to Prepare for a Gastroenterologist Visit Amidst a Potential Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis Diagnosis

After visiting with your primary care physician to discuss your ongoing digestive and bowel issues, you’ve now been referred to a gastroenterologist (GI) who specializes in treating chronic forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). You fear you may receive a diagnosis of a condition like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The range of treatments for those with IBD can vary, from alterations in diet to the prescription of a biologic infusion therapy such as RemicadeEntyvioTysabri, or other medication.

A young female barista
A young female barista

Every patient’s story is different, but having a trusted care team in your corner is essential. Equipping your gastroenterologist with the best information at every step can ensure they give you a proper diagnosis and develop an effective treatment plan to help reduce and manage your symptoms. In particular, developing a collaborative relationship with your GI office is critical for those suffering with bowel issues like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis because of the chronic nature of these conditions. Patients will likely see their specialist physician multiple times each year.

Most doctor visits are an hour max, so preparation is the best way to ensure you get the answers you need. Here are essential tips, questions to ask, and what to expect during your next appointment amidst a potential Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis diagnosis.

What to Bring to Your Gastroenterologist Appointment

The goal of your appointment is to receive a proper diagnosis and find a treatment that increases your quality of life. Your gastroenterology office may already have your clinical records, medical history, and recent test results – such as blood work, imaging, and other physician notes. Here are some additional items to bring with you to your next GI appointment that can help your gastroenterologist and his or her clinical team as they seek a diagnosis and prescribe the best therapy regimen.

  • Symptoms List & Food Journals: Keep a list of your symptoms and the foods you eat, especially if you notice a specific type of food or drink that typically causes a “flare.” These help with the initial diagnosis.
  • Current Medications: Make a list of all medications you take. Don’t forget about over-the-counter pills and supplements.
  • Notepad, Journal, or Smart Device: It’s easy to forget technical information. Writing down critical details gives you a good point of reference. Many smartphones have a voice recording function. Consider asking your gastroenterologist if you could record your visit so you don’t miss any important information!

Questions the Gastroenterologist May Ask You

Even though a gastroenterologist treats many patients with chronic IBD, everyone is different. The GI will want to know about your specific symptoms, disease progression, and family history. It’s crucial to be as detailed as possible with your answers. To help you prepare, take a look at some common questions you can expect:

  • When did your symptoms first start?
  • Does anyone else in your family have a history of IBD issues?
  • How often do you have a bowel movement, and what are the characteristics?
  • What, if anything, has eased some of the symptoms?
  • What precipitates symptom onset, like stress, certain foods, or activities?
  • How are you managing your symptoms daily?

The answers will help your GI understand how Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis impacts your body. Preparing the answers in advance will save valuable time during your appointment.

Questions To Ask Your Gastroenterologist

Did you have questions a primary care doctor couldn’t answer when you first presented with symptoms? Many primary care physicians aren’t trained in specialized issues like digestion. Now is your chance to get detailed medical information from an expert. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What causes Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis?
  • What are the treatment options available to me?
  • Can these symptoms lead to worse diseases, like cancer?
  • Are diet changes forever?
  • What other complications may occur from the disease or treatment?

A gastroenterologist is your best source for information. Again, it’s hard to remember everything. Have a journal or notebook handy to jot down details you don’t want to forget.

Biologic Infusions for Crohn’s Disease & Ulcerative Colitis

Depending on the severity of your condition, a gastroenterologist may decide to prescribe a biologic infusion therapy. Over the past two decades, there have been major advances in pharmaceutical care to treat autoimmune conditions through IV infusion. Many gastroenterologists prescribe therapies such as such as EntyvioTysabri, Remicade or an infliximab biosimilar. If your GI physician does prescribe an infusion therapy like Remicade, there are great resources on how to prepare for your first infusion.

A GI May Perform Diagnostic Tests and Procedures

Even though you’ve had diagnostic tests, your gastroenterologist will likely request more. They may test your belly area for sensitivity and abnormalities.  Also, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can affect more than your digestion. As these are autoimmune conditions, other areas – including your eyes, skin, and joints – may show signs of disease. In these cases, your GI might recommend other specialists to help treat those conditions.

If your gastroenterologist believes you may have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, he or she will likely order an endoscopic procedure, such as a colonoscopy. These tests are critical to a proper diagnosis, as they provide live video and images of your digestive tract and can show issues and abnormalities. These procedures also help determine if you have Crohn’s or colitis. The symptoms of these conditions present very similarly, but the treatment options can vary, as these diseases impact different areas of your GI tract.

Call The Office Ahead Of Your Appointment

Check with the office at least a week before your appointment. Depending on your symptoms, your GI could schedule a diagnostic test immediately. In this case, you may need to fast for a certain amount of time or avoid specific foods leading up to the visit.

Be Ready For Your Appointment!

Talking about digestive issues can be uncomfortable, but you want to be as open and honest as possible. Every detail gives your gastroenterologist a better idea of what’s going on inside your gut. Preparing for your visit can help you stay focused and ease your anxiety beforehand.

Doctors often prescribe a biologic infusion or injection to manage symptoms. IVX Health would love to play a role in your care journey. We specialize in infusions that treat Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, like  Entyvio,  RenflexisInflectra,  AvsolaTysabri, and Stelara. IVX Health is a national provider of outpatient infusion centers. We offer patients private suites, personalized care, and flexible scheduling. Contact our experienced team for more information or to schedule a visit.

Treatment at IVX Health

If biologics like Remicade, Actemra or Orencia  are a part of your chronic illness treatment plan, then consider choosing IVX Health for your ongoing care needs. IVX Health makes it possible to receive your therapy in a comfortable, convenient, and private environment.

With a private suite for every patient, you can watch your favorite Netflix show or movie on the big screen TV in each room, use a laptop or other mobile device to surf the web, or simply hang out with family and friends. We always have chairs for guests, and each center has a family room that is spacious and private if you need to bring your kids to your treatment. We also offer flexible appointment scheduling – including evenings and Saturdays – at any of our convenient locations.

At IVX Health, we truly are invested in helping you live your best life. If you’re ready to experience a new kind of infusion clinic, click here to learn how to move your infusion or injection therapy to IVX Health.