When Should You Call Your Gastroenterologist?

Warning Signs That You Should Get In To See Your Gastroenterologist

Telephone
You might need to call your doctor when problems with your IBD crop up. Photo © Zvon

When you have a chronic condition like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) you need to have a close relationship with your physicians. But, chronic conditions are just that...chronic. Your health will have its ups and downs, and sometimes you aren't really sure how "down" you have to be before calling a doctor.

So which signs and symptoms, other than those you may experience regularly, should prompt you to call the gastroenterologist?

In addition to the suggestions below, you should call your physician if you experience any new symptoms that you think are connected to your IBD or you think that your condition is generally worsening.

Medication Changes

One reason to call your doctor is if another physician or a dentist prescribes medication you're not sure you should take. For some people, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and antibiotics may set off a flare-up of IBD symptoms. Other drugs may interact with those that you are already taking to manage your IBD. Specialists such as dentists, dermatologists, podiatrists, and even primary care physicians may not be knowledgeable enough about IBD to be aware that the prescription they ordered for you could be harmful. A quick double-check of your medication regimen is a good idea.

You Have A Fever

You may be used to occasionally feeling feverish--your body is reacting to the inflammation in your digestive tract.

This spiking of fevers can even result in daytime "hot flashes" or night sweats. However, a high or prolonged fever (101 °F [38.3 °C]) may indicate serious inflammation or another condition.

Losing Weight

Many people with IBD tend to be on the thin side, and losing weight when you're already thin can be serious.

If you notice that you've lost weight recently without trying, or are concerned about not being able to keep weight on, contact your doctor.

Excessive Bleeding

During an IBD flare-up you may be used to seeing a little blood in the toilet (especially if you have ulcerative colitis). If you have new bleeding or you have been in remission, you will want to contact your doctor to treat the flare-up. However, flaring or not, if you see a significant amount of blood in your stool you should call your gastroenterologist immediately. If the bleeding does not stop, you feel faint or dizzy, or your doctor is unavailable, call 911 or your local emergency department immediately.

Dizziness Or A Rapid Heartbeat

Most people with IBD are used to having the occasional unusual symptom, and sometimes we just assume that it's another part of the disease. However, passing out and/or a rapid heartbeat that won't slow down should be reported to your gastroenterologist right away. If these signs are very troublesome, or are accompanied by other serious symptoms like loss of feeling in an arm or a leg, call 911.

Dehydration

Once dehydration from diarrhea and vomiting is present, it can be difficult to get dehydrated by simply drinking water. Your doctor can offer suggestions on how you can get rehydrated. The symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Cramps in the abdomen or leg
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Decreased tears
  • Decreased urine output
  • Dry skin
  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Excessive loss of fluid through vomiting, diarrhea, or sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Less frequent urination
  • Light-headedness
  • Thirst

Severe Abdominal Pain

You have probably been told that you may experience a certain amount of pain from IBD, and you are likely familiar with your own personal "typical" level of pain. If you experience severe abdominal pain or pain that is accompanied by repeated vomiting and/or excessive bloating, contact your doctor. If the pain is sudden, very severe, and accompanied by repeated vomiting and the absence of bowel movements (which are symptoms of a bowel obstruction), call 911 or contact your local emergency department.

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