How Many Doctors Did It Take To Get Diagnosed?

I cannot speak for most about their journey to getting diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. However, I do know that for some of us, it took several years, doctors, and specialists to get an official IBS diagnosis.

There could be many different sociopolitical reasons as to why that was the case, but the fact of the matter is that, for years, we’re left with hardly any answers to our pain and a difficult time managing symptoms cluelessly. Nonetheless, I would like to personally share how many doctors and specialists it took for me to officially get diagnosed in hopes that others with IBS can relate to my experience. And, since it took me a course of 5 years to get diagnosed, I will do my best to make this a long story short.

I started with my primary doctor

It all started with a reaction to something I ate at an event that led to constant bouts of nausea, stomach pain, and diarrhea that lasted longer than I wanted and expected. After a few months of these recurring events, of course, the first doctor I saw regarding my digestive issues was a primary care physician. He recommended that I take over-the-counter medications (i.e. Imodium, Prilosec OTC, Pepto Bismol, MiraLAX or Tylenol) to help ease my symptoms. Unfortunately, nothing he recommended worked for me. Long story short, after some further evaluation, he eventually referred me to a gastroenterologist.

My first gastroenterologist

To my knowledge, this was the first time I’d ever seen a gastroenterologist in my life. He seemed a lot more helpful and understanding about what I was going through than my primary care doctor, so I felt somewhat confident in the guy. After evaluating me long enough, he recommended that I get a colonoscopy and an endoscopy within the same medical procedure to check out what was going on inside.

At the time, I was 22 years old and scared of the idea because I had only heard of older men, at least in their 40’s, ever needing a colonoscopy for the sake of making sure there is no detection of colon cancer. Well, despite my fears, I accepted his recommendation because I wanted answers to my pain. The results of my colonoscopy were normal. Thank goodness!

However, the results of my endoscopy stated that I had a bacterial infection called Helicobacter Pylori. Darnit! Well, the good news is that I knew what was causing my suffering, and now I can do something about it. So, my gastro prescribed me antibiotics to get rid of the infection, and I had to take the medication over a course of 2 weeks. Long story short, the antibiotics got rid of the infection, but it never got rid of the symptoms. How is that possible?

More tests and doctors

A little over a month went by and I went back to my gastro to talk about my progress after taking the antibiotics. I explained to him that I was still experiencing symptoms, despite the infection no longer being present. He then referred me to a radiologist to get an x-ray done. When the appointment date finally came, I not only saw the radiologist, but also an x-ray technologist who was assisting with the procedure. Long story short, nothing unusual showed up on the x-ray, so the results came back negative. In other words, no new answers to what was causing my pain. So, I decided to go back to my gastro for more help.

When I went back to my gastro and discussed the negative results of the x-ray procedure, we came to the conclusion of trying a new course of medication, both prescribed and over the counter. Needless to say, I took his instructions without hesitation because I was yearning to get rid of whatever it was I was going through. Long story short, even these courses of recommended meds weren’t effective for what I was going through. Therefore, I just stopped seeing my gastro for a while and tried to figure out how to deal with the symptoms on my own.

I felt defeated from my IBS symptoms

I was starting to feel a bit defeated and discouraged because I wasn’t getting answers to my problems fast enough and the symptoms were starting to affect my ability to work, and overall daily life. After a couple of years, I couldn’t take it anymore. I finally decided to try again and see a medical professional about my condition, and this time I saw a new primary care doctor. Through this new doctor, I was eventually referred to a nurse practitioner who specialized in gastroenterology. She recommended that I have another colonoscopy and endoscopy to make sure the bacterial infection didn’t come back and nothing new arose since my last procedures.

Well, I was a bit skeptical and apprehensive about the idea of going through another colonoscopy and endoscopy because I somewhat felt it was unnecessary due to the results of the last time. However, I trusted the nurse practitioner’s judgment because I felt she knew better than I did. Long story short, the results from both came back negative, although they documented on my reports that I had a mild inflammation in my duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine. If you ask me, I considered that a big deal, a sign that something is causing my intestines to become inflamed or irritated. However, my nurse practitioner didn’t.

Finally, a diagnosis of IBS

So, she recommended I get a few more procedures done, which were a stool analysis, a CT scan, and an ultrasound. All these procedures required me to encounter even more medical professionals, such as a CT and Ultrasound technologists. And, as usual, all the results came back negative to those tests. So, once all was finally said and done, my nurse practitioner concluded that I had IBS with predominant diarrhea (IBS-D). This diagnosis was 5 years ago, and since then I have not had another colonoscopy or endoscopy performed.

I literally saw over about 10-12 medical professionals or doctors to help me solve the painful mystery of what I was going through for 5 years. And, within that time period, so much turmoil had happened in my life. I’ve lost many jobs, and my self-esteem was at an all-time low. I was losing sight of who I was as a person because I didn’t feel like I had any sense of control over my life. It truly was difficult times because I not only had to fight hard to get diagnosed, but to also be taken seriously. Nonetheless, although I know I have IBS, I still feel like there is still much to learn about what is causing my pain, so the journey visiting more medical professionals and doctors continue.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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