One of the best things you can do to manage a condition like Crohn’s disease is to be actively involved in your own treatment. While your gastroenterologist may be an expert on the disease itself, you are the expert of your life: what your symptoms are, how they affect you, what your lifestyle is like, and so on.
“Once we know what type of Crohn’s that patient has, then we discuss what are the possible treatment options, and that’s where it’s important for a patient to be part of that discussion,” says David P. Hudesman, MD, associate professor at the Department of Medicine and medical director at the IBD Center at NYU Langone Health.
Instead of attending an appointment and passively receiving information and instructions from your doctor, come prepared to be an active participant in the conversation. Here are some tips to help you prepare for a valuable appointment for your Crohn’s disease:
Know what your treatment goals are. If you can communicate what you want from treatment, your gastroenterologist will have a better idea of what plan works for you.
Do some basic research of Crohn’s disease treatment options. “You don’t want to read too much,” warns Dr. Hudesman. “If you Google anything, you’re gonna find a lot of things that probably are not true.” Stick to trusted websites, and try to get a general feel of the basic treatment options for Crohn’s disease.
Have questions ready. Dr. Hudesman suggests having questions prepared about different medications, such as whether they will work for you, if there are safety concerns, or if it will affect your everyday life. (Here are other questions to ask your doctor to better understand your prescription.)
Reflect on what your symptoms have been. Have your Crohn’s disease symptoms changed since your last appointment? What trends have you noticed? What symptom is causing you the most trouble that you would like your doctor to address? These are all important things to communicate to your doctor.
“With proper treatment for Crohn’s [and] appropriate follow-up, the vast majority of people do very well with a great quality of life,” says Dr. Hudesman. “There’s no reason why that can’t happen with any of our patients, as long as they’re following up regularly and discussing their care with their physicians.”