Failing to Mention Common IBS Symptoms May Hinder Diagnosis of Other Illnesses
When you visit a doctor for any medical issue, the questions you are asked always seem to include irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. If you experience these on a regular basis, how do you know when it is relative to your current complaint?
I cannot remember a single time when the list of symptoms on the questionnaire did not include problems I have on a regular basis. Many of us experience diarrhea, constipation, nausea, cramping, fatigue, and more quite often. As a result, we either do not report or we always report these symptoms. How are we supposed to know when it is or is not relevant?
Common symptoms are often ignored
Since I am getting older, I find this to be a bigger issue. When a doctor asks me about symptoms, I seem to be answering yes to many but explaining why I do not feel they are relevant. Sometimes rather than explaining, I simply skip informing the doctor of these issues. Is this complicating the diagnosis of other issues? Perhaps.
If I am asked about diarrhea, I say I have IBS. When asked about stomach pains, the answer is the same. If a doctor asks about fatigue, I usually reply, “Who isn’t tired?” When asked about trouble sleeping, I inform them I have had insomnia for decades. Symptoms I have that can be attributed to perimenopause are generally ignored. I have a number of symptoms I can attribute to illnesses I know I have, but how do I know if a symptom is linked to a new problem? How do I know if the omission of a symptom leads a doctor to exclude an illness that would be the correct diagnosis?
Considering the relevance of symptoms
Maybe I should pay closer attention to changes in the severity of symptoms of the return of symptoms that have been absent for a while. It seems pointless to list symptoms I have had for years when inquiring about new ailments, but perhaps it is important. Will the doctor’s eyes glaze over with a lack of concern if I start naming issues I have had for years? Will they be able to differentiate between what is relevant and what is not? I do not know, and that is a problem.
Many of us suffer from more than one illness, and we tend to have a lot of symptoms we ignore or do not consider. Are we hindering our doctors’ abilities to diagnose other things by failing to disclose symptoms we can attribute to our other ailments? It is time for us to have longer discussions with our doctors to fix this problem.
Talk to your doctor
If you are in pursuit of a diagnosis for a new issue, spend a bit more time talking. Take the time to explain new symptoms, but be sure to remind your doctor of other symptoms that could also be related. Mention symptoms that have worsened or reappeared. Ask your doctor about changes in symptoms. Remind them of other illnesses as some people tend to be more susceptible to certain diseases if they are already diagnosed with another.
I am guilty of trying to rush through a doctor’s exam and omitting what could be pertinent information. This is a bad thing, and I need to do better. I am sure I am not the only person guilty of skipping over symptoms to save time. As annoying as it may be to spend so much time listing the same symptoms at each visit, it may help you get answers for other issues. It is worth a try.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to IBS?