Things You Should Tell Your Gastroenterologist

Things You Should Tell Your Gastroenterologist

Things You Must Tell Your Gastroenterologist
Do you tell your doctor everything? Maybe not. But here are some of the signs and symptoms of IBD that you should always be telling your doctor about.. Image © Chris Ryan / OJO Images / Getty Images, Kali Nine LLC / E+ / Getty Images, Hero Images / Hero Images / Getty Images

Most people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) see their gastroenterologist on a regular basis. The relationship between a gastroenterologist and a patient with IBD tends to be close, because ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are chronic, lifelong conditions. IBD goes through periods of active disease and remission, which means that it needs to be watched, even when it's not causing any outward signs or symptoms. Even though many people with IBD keep their gastroenterologist very close, they may not tell their gastroenterologist everything. This could be because of embarrassment or it could be because it may not be understood that IBD affects far more parts of the body than just the gastrointestinal tract. Read on to see what things you're probably not telling your gastroenterologist, but you should.

I Lost Control Of My Bowels

Man Running To Toilet
Have you ever had a bathroom accident? It happens sometimes to people who have IBD. There is a lot that can be done to try and prevent accidents, but you need to screw up your courage and talk to your doctor about it first.. Image © Peter Cade / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Having a bathroom accident is arguably the most difficult thing you will ever need to admit to your physicians. It seems to most of us that having an accident or being incontinent is just too personal to talk about, and that it should be kept private. The problem is, though, that if you don't tell anyone that it happened, not one can help you.

If you are losing control, that means that something is not going well with your treatment, and it may be time for a change. Maybe it's your only symptom right now, and you feel fine except that you couldn't make it to the toilet on time. Or maybe you're already flaring and this is one more upsetting sign of your IBD that you need to manage. In any case, you must tell your physicians. You can try rehearsing the words in the mirror before you must say them to someone. You could write it in a letter and hand it to your doc or send it in before your appointment. You must do whatever is necessary to get the words out and get the issue on the table. Your physician has heard this before from patients with IBD, and it's not going to shock them. Instead, you can both treat this information like any other sign or symptom and move towards finding out to address the problem. 

My Sex Life Isn't What I Want It To Be

Happy Couple
If you aren't having the intimate life that you want to have with your partner, you should bring it up with your physicians. It won't be easy, it's a difficult discussion, but it's absolutely one that you must have if you want to improve your sex life.. Image © Chris Ryan / OJO Images / Getty Images

For those with chronic illness like IBD, the idea of a healthy sex life may seem not only far off, but also a topic that's not even worth mentioning to physicians. That could not be further from the truth. If your intimate life with your partner is not satisfying, you should talk to your physician about the problem.

Everyone deserves the sex life that they and their partner want to have together. IBD provides a lot of barriers to enjoying intimacy, but there are ways those problems can be mitigated. There are treatments that can help you enjoy sex with your partner again. Your physician can help you determine what the problems are and figure out if you need another health care provider to assist with your specific concerns. But you can't get started on solving the problem unless you start the conversation. You can't wait for your doctors to ask about this one — you need to bring it up yourself. 

My Joints Hurt

Pain Consultation
The joint pain that everyone feels from time to time may be normal, but in people with IBD it could mean that a form of arthritis has developed. When joints are painful, it's worth discussing it with your gastroenterologist to find out if more tests or treatment are needed.. Image © Hero Images / Hero Images / Getty Images

Why would you ever mention your aches and pains to your gastroenterologist? That's not something that's related to IBD, right? Wrong! Approximately 25% of people who have IBD also have related joint pain or one of several different forms of arthritis. Arthritis in people with IBD may need to be treated differently than arthritis in people who don't have any other related conditions. This is a condition that may require a referral to another specialist, but your IBD doctor should remain involved and both conditions need to be treated while keeping the other in mind. This is one situation where you will want to make sure your doctors are talking with each other about your care, and that everyone is aware of what's going on with your treatment. 

My Eyes Are Bothering Me

Eye Exam
A regular eye exam should be part of managing your IBD. Seeing an eye doctor who has experience with IBD is a great idea, but if there is no such doctor nearby, be sure to mention your IBD to your ophthalmologist. A yearly eye exam can help catch problems (both with your eyes and with other parts of your body) before they become serious.. Image © Echo / Cultura / Getty Images

How can your digestive disease have anything to do with your eyes? It may seem that one might not have anything to do with another, but people with IBD may also develop various eye conditions, either related to IBD or as a result of certain treatments. Uveitis, glaucoma,  episcleritis, and cataracts are all eye conditions that may be related to IBD or to the treatments for IBD. These are not conditions that can be ignored because they can threaten your sight permanently. You may already be seeing an eye specialist, but your gastroenterologist should also know about any problems you are having with your eyes. Because of the potential for eye problems, every person who has IBD should be seeing an optometrist or an ophthalmologist on a regular basis — yearly if possible. If any eye problems do develop, your gastroenterologist needs to know about them. 

I'm Not Sleeping

There can be so many reasons that you're not sleeping and some, or all, of them may be related to your IBD. In fact, IBD and sleep may be very closely related, and keeping track of your sleep could help you predict when IBD or other health problems are going to start flaring up.. Image © YinYang / E+ / Getty Images

People who have IBD know that they don't get enough quality sleep. It may also be a sign of IBD that is glossed-over, because doesn't everyone know that a person who is sick doesn't sleep well? Yet you can't let anything be unspoken when it comes to your health, and if your doctors aren't asking you about sleep, then you need to be asking them. Sleep can have a profound effect on IBD, and the research is just starting to uncover exactly why and how that happens. There is plenty of at-home care that can be done to help with sleep, but there are also treatments available. Furthermore, a sleep schedule that is not supportive of health could be another sign that IBD is not being managed effectively. In fact, there is some evidence that sleep disturbances may show up before other signs of IBD do.

I Have Problems With My Skin

Skin Exam
People with IBD are at a higher risk of developing certain skin conditions. Your skin is the largest organ in your body; you need to take care of it by getting a regular skin check-up and by discussing any new problems with your skin with your gastroenterologist and your dermatologist.. Image © Kali Nine LLC / E+ / Getty Images

A lot of people get rashes from time to time and don't think too much about it. A new soap or detergent could lead to some skin irritation, and most people will just ignore those small problems. However, people with IBD are at risk for skin problems that are more serious than a little irritation from a change of soap. Pyoderma gangrenosum, aphthous ulcers, and erythema nodosum are skin conditions that are related to IBD. Erythema nodosum are lesions that occur mainly on the arms and legs. Pyoderma gangrenosum may start as a small cut or abrasion, but turns into an ulcer. Aphthous stomatitis (recognize that word "stoma?"—it means "mouth") are ulcers that occur inside the mouth. 

In some cases these skin disorders can be not much more than an annoyance, but in others they can be quite serious and may need treatment. Getting IBD under control may also help with these conditions, but even if the IBD is in remission, you should always mention anything unusual with your skin to your doctors, and have it looked at promptly.

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