If you’re receiving treatment for Crohn’s disease, you will have several doctors help you in the process, including some that specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases.
Primary Care Doctor
A general practitioner may coordinate care and maintain records of your health. They may also refer you to specialists based on their observations of your symptoms.
A gastroenterologist specializes in the digestive system and its disorders. Your primary care doctor may refer you to one to perform an endoscopy, which is a procedure used to determine a diagnosis and disease stage. A gastroenterologist might also consult with you and your doctor when considering how best to treat your condition.
Your gastroenterologist may determine that your condition warrants surgery. If that’s the case, a colon and rectal surgeon will perform an ileostomy (connecting the small intestine to the abdominal wall) or a colostomy (connecting the colon to the abdominal wall). An ostomy can be temporary or permanent, and can be reversed.
This is a nurse or healthcare specialist who works specifically with intestinal surgery patients as they plan for and adjust to life with a colostomy or ileostomy. If you have a procedure that results in an ostomy, your general practitioner or gastroenterologist can refer you to an enterostomal therapist for guidance.
In addition to the doctors and specialists listed above, you may need to consult with other medical experts in your quest for better health, such as:
- infusion center nurses
- mental health professionals
If you’re having persistent or recurring symptoms such as diarrhea and abdominal pain, you’ll probably first visit your primary care physician for an evaluation. To make the most of this appointment, it’s helpful to be prepared.
Before Your Appointment
Having the following information ready will help your doctor evaluate your condition:
- Write down the symptoms you’re experiencing. Include symptoms you may not think are related, as well as information about when the symptoms started and how severe they are.
- Write down personal information that might be relevant. Include recent stressors, major life changes, and dietary changes.
- Make a list of all medications you’re taking. Include all vitamins, herbs, and other supplements.
- Find out if there is anything special you need to do before your appointment. For example, your doctor may ask that you restrict your diet in preparation for blood tests.
- Make a list of questions to ask your doctor.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
These are examples of questions you might want to ask your doctor. You probably have more of your own to add to this list:
- What might be causing my symptoms?
- Do you think I have Crohn’s or some other inflammatory bowel disease?
- What tests should be done?
- What treatments are available?
- Is there a cure?
- Will this go away without treatment?
- Do I need to take medication?
Questions Your Doctor Will Ask You
Your doctor will need complete information to make an accurate diagnosis or recommendation for testing or referral. They’ll probably ask some or all of the following questions:
- When did your symptoms begin?
- Do you have symptoms all the time or some of the time?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Are you able to work and participate in your usual activities?
- Does anything make your symptoms better?
- What makes your symptoms worse?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you take NSAIDs? For example, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Alleve), and diclofenac (Volteren, Solaraze).
- Does anyone in your family have an inflammatory bowel disease?
After the Diagnosis
Being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease can be frightening. You might want to ask your doctor some of the following questions:
- What type of Crohn’s do I have?
- Will I be able to work, travel, and live normally?
- Can it be treated?
- What can I do to make myself feel better?
- Can I have children? Will they also have Crohn’s disease?
Crohn’s disease can affect your life in many ways. When your disease is flaring up, you may find it difficult to leave the house. Many patients experience depression. It might be helpful to talk to a therapist who has experience with inflammatory bowel diseases.
You might also want to join a support group. Talking with others who have the same problems can be very helpful. People who have the disease are also a good source of information about treatments and therapies. The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America can help you find a support group either in your community or online.