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Have you ever walked away from a doctor's visit thinking, "Why didn't I remember to ask that?" From appointment to appointment, new questions about your ulcerative colitis (UC) are going to come up. That's why it's a good idea to prepare for your visit before you arrive.

Think about the specific questions you have on your mind and write them down. If it helps, run your list of questions past a family member or good friend beforehand. If you're not sure of what questions to ask, try using this Doctor Discussion Guide.

Your doctor is the primary source of information about your UC, but you may be able to talk to a registered nurse (RN), nurse practitioner (NP), or physician's assistant (PA) for additional information and support in between office visits. These professionals may also be able to help you with such things as filling a prescription or giving you the results of a test.

Be an active partner in your health care

By openly discussing your UC with your doctor, asking questions, and making sure to mention any and all symptoms (no matter how small or embarrassing they may seem), you will become an active partner in your care. Helping you achieve and maintain remission are goals of UC therapy and should be what you and your doctor are working together to achieve.

Take some simple steps to make sure your doctor is getting the full picture of your disease and how you are doing:

  • Report all your symptoms, no matter how small or embarrassing they seem
  • Stay in touch, even when you think you are in remission
  • Talk about how you responded to the medication you were prescribed or to the surgery that was performed

Keep in mind, by not talking about your symptoms, your concerns, or how you feel, you may make it difficult for your doctor to truly understand the severity of your disease. As a result, your doctor may develop a treatment plan that isn’t as effective as it could be.

What if I’m embarrassed to talk to my doctor? +

If you sometimes feel embarrassed or awkward when you discuss your UC symptoms, you’re not alone. Although it may feel uncomfortable to talk about your symptoms, it’s helpful to remember that your doctor has treated other patients with UC and has heard about the symptoms before. He or she is focused on you and truly wants to help you better manage your UC. This includes getting a good idea about how you feel and what symptoms you are experiencing.

Your honest feedback will give your doctor the information necessary to help you get the most out of your treatment plan. And remember, you can always talk to members of your doctor’s health care team, such as nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician’s assistants. They are also there to help provide you with information and support.

Is it alright to ask about other treatment options? +

Your doctor needs to know how you are doing on your treatment plan, including what symptoms you are experiencing and any side effects you may have with your current medication. It’s okay to discuss other treatment options with your doctor. If you are interested in learning about them, simply ask your doctor. Together, you can find a treatment option that may be right for you.

Should I get a second opinion? +

You may want to consider getting a second opinion. Because your doctor is on your side, he or she will naturally want you to be as informed about your UC as possible. Your doctor is looking out for your best interests, so don’t hesitate to talk with another specialist. Your doctor may even suggest other specialists who may be of particular help in your case. Remember, most doctors welcome the opportunity to have another specialist review their opinion and have their decisions about medical care agreed upon, and many will perhaps be open to suggestions about another approach to treatment that may be better for you.

What if I don’t understand what the doctor is saying? +

If you don’t understand a word or phrase, just say so. Your health care team wants to do everything possible to help you understand what is being said to you. This is part of giving you the best care possible.

Confirm the information by repeating it back to your doctor. You might also take a few notes so you can remember what you learned, or bring along a family member or friend so he or she can help you remember what your doctor or other health care specialist said.