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What will my doctor ask when diagnosing inflammatory bowel disease?

Your doctor will ask you many questions if you are suspected of having a form of inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis. The first is what your bowel habits were when you were feeling well. This gives the doctor a sense of what your baseline is. Some people, at baseline, move their bowels three times a day; others, every three days. Doctors will want to see whether or not you are having increased bowel movements and how much they differ from your usual movements.

The doctor will want to know when your symptoms began, how many trips to the bathroom you make—not just bowel movements but how many trips to the bathroom. This is because in ulcerative colitis, one of the characteristics is a lot of urgency: You may feel like you need to go to the bathroom, but a stool doesn't always come out or there is a sense of incomplete evacuation.

Other questions will include: Have you noticed blood in your stools? How much? How often? Is it with every bowel movement or just some? Are you experiencing fever, weight loss or fatigue? Are you getting up in the middle of the night to move your bowels or because of abdominal pain? Do you have that urgency to move your bowels all the time, and are you having abdominal pain? What style is it? Is it crampy or sharp? Where is it located?

The doctor will also want to ask about other potential triggers. Were you recently on antibiotics? Did you start any new medications? Are you taking your medications? Have you been to the hospital recently, or has anyone around you been sick?

For women, there's an association between inflammatory bowel disease symptoms and the menstrual cycle. The doctor will want to know if there is a relationship between your symptoms and your menstrual cycle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.