(Family Features) A lifelong diagnosis like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may feel overwhelming and confusing, but by working closely with your health care providers, you can work toward managing the disease and improving your quality of life.
Consider these recommendations from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation to partner with your health care team to manage your IBD.
Be Upfront About Your Symptoms
Being honest with your doctor about your symptoms is an important first step in your journey with your IBD diagnosis. Oftentimes, this starts by sharing exactly what you are experiencing on a daily or even weekly basis, such as frequency of bathroom visits, pain, blood in your stool or fatigue, so your health care team can gain a better understanding of how you are feeling. One way to help ensure you’re managing your diagnosis properly is to keep a journal, which offers a simple way to track if symptoms have improved or worsened since your last visit and help you remember questions that may arise. If you find it difficult to discuss certain topics, practice talking about these issues with a friend or family member before appointments and consider bringing a loved one to appointments for support.
Work with Your Health Care Team to Set Goals
Goals, or targets, will be different for every patient based on the type of disease, severity, progression and a variety of other factors. Finding the right IBD treatment can take time, so it’s important to balance your present priorities. Start by taking an honest approach to your personal preferences regarding medications. Consider if you have time in your schedule for lengthy infusions. Or perhaps you prefer administering self-injections. You may have short-term goals, such as attending a family wedding in two months, as well as long-term goals related to the future course of your disease, like reducing IBD inflammation and achieving remission, which is considered mucosal healing. This process is often called “treat-to-target” in the medical community and helps avoid complications and minimizes long-term disease risks as much as possible.
This goal-oriented approach to managing IBD is much like setting a target and trying to hit the bullseye. It can’t be done by your provider alone; you need to be an active partner in the goal-setting discussion. Providing clarity to your health care professionals regarding personal preferences and your short- and long-term goals like a desire to get pregnant, to travel, to decrease stress and anxiety, gain self-care skills or to return to school can keep the entire team on the same page.
Make Decisions Together by Acting as an Effective Partner
Asking questions is the first step toward creating an effective partnership with your health care team. You can start by seeking an understanding of which diagnostic tests are important for you to undergo. Decide together which steps should be taken now and which you should aim for in the future. Be willing to learn each part of the process, including treatment options, potential risks and benefits.
It may take some time before you see any progress made toward achieving your goal. Certain treatments may take some time to work. Review any external factors that may impact the effectiveness of your treatment. Talk to your doctor about adjusting treatments and consider changing your targets if available treatments are not helping you reach your goals.
Find more advice for effectively partnering with your physician to manage IBD at crohnscolitisfoundation.org.
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