The first time you meet with a gastroenterologist can be a little nerve-wracking. By this point, most patients have been dealing with their symptoms for some time and are desperate for answers. Plus, the symptoms you see a GI doctor for — diarrhea, constipation, blood stool, and so forth — tend to be quite unpleasant both to experience and to talk about. So how do you get the most out of this first appointment and ensure it is a good experience? Here are a few tips.
Keep and bring a diary of symptoms
In the weeks leading up to your first GI appointment, keep a diary in as much detail as possible. Write down what you eat and when. Keep track of whatever else you do each day, and most importantly, write down your symptoms. It can be a little strange journaling about your GI symptoms, but this really is important for your doctor to be able to narrow down the potential triggers for your symptoms and to consider different diagnoses. Your diary can also come in handy when the doctor asks you questions, such as "when was the last time your diarrhea lasted more than 12 hours?" You can just look through your diary for an answer and know that answer is reliable.
Be thorough in presenting your medical history
At your first appointment, your GI doctor will be trying to get to know you and your health history. It's important to be thorough when describing any past diagnoses and procedures you've had. You might assume, for instance, that something like acne or rosacea is not related to your GI symptoms, but there could be a link to some autoimmune condition you're not aware of. Leave it to your doctor to decide what is and is not relevant; include everything.
Bring along any medications or supplements you are taking
If you currently take anything to manage your GI problems, bring the supplement with you. This is easier than trying to explain to your doctor exactly what it is that you are taking. Also, be ready to describe how you react to each medication or supplement; this can tell your doctor a lot about what may be causing your symptoms.
If you follow the tips above, you will have a smoother and more productive first meeting with the GI doctor. You'll probably have a few more appointments before a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan are given, but you'll at least be started down the right path.
For more tips, reach out to a gastroenterologist in your area.