If you have Crohn’s disease, you’ll probably see several types of health professionals. Ideally, they'll work together to help you reduce symptoms and manage your health.
Members of your team might include:
Primary doctor or pediatrician: Your primary doctor helps you keep track of your overall health and coordinates your care.
Crohn's can be hard to diagnose, and there's no one test for it. Your primary care doctor will review your symptoms and do exams to try to figure out what's causing them. If they think you have Crohn's, they may refer you to a gastroenterologist for further testing.
A pediatrician plays a similar role for a child with Crohn’s disease. Children can be more intensely affected by Crohn's than adults. And doctors may need to use different tests to diagnose and track it, since repeated X-ray radiation could be dangerous for kids.
Your pediatrician can work with you and your child to help balance your child's social, school, and home lives.
Gastroenterologist: This doctor specializes in the health of your digestive system. They can do tests, prescribe medications, and advise you on lifestyle changes to help you handle Crohn's disease. They also care for you before and after surgery for Crohn's.
When you have Crohn's, you'll likely need to see a gastroenterologist throughout your life.
A pediatric gastroenterologist does this type of care for children with Crohn's.
Surgeon: Some people with Crohn’s disease need surgery. Your surgeon will work to help correct problems your condition has caused. At the same time, they'll try to save as much of your bowel as possible.
Surgeons do different types of surgery for Crohn's, depending on how widespread and how serious your illness is. Your surgeon will work with you to decide which operation is best.
Dietitian or nutritionist: Some foods might cause your Crohn’s to flare up. But these trigger foods are different for different people. And some people with Crohn's have a hard time getting the nutrition they need.
A dietitian or nutritionist can create a personalized eating plan to deal with your dietary needs. They may recommend certain foods or dietary supplements to help manage your condition.
Pharmacist: Your pharmacist works with you and your doctor to make sure you get the right medication for your condition. They can answer your questions about how to take these drugs, what side effects they might cause, and any other concerns you have.
Psychiatrist or therapist: Your Crohn’s symptoms can affect your mental as well as your physical health. A therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help if you have anxiety, depression, stress, or other emotional issues because of Crohn’s.
Because these conditions can also make symptoms worse, this type of care may also help you improve your overall health.
How to Prepare for Your Appointments
You'll have a limited amount of time with your doctor or gastroenterologist at each appointment. So learn as much as you can about Crohn’s so you can make the most of your health care.
Before your appointments, write down all your symptoms, changes in your health, medications you take, and any questions you have. You could ask your doctors questions like:
- Do I need any tests? If so, what should I do to prepare?
- What treatments are available for me?
- What are the side effects of certain treatments?
- Are there any treatments that I should avoid?
- What alternative methods can I use alongside my regular treatment?
- How can I manage multiple conditions?
Your Role in Crohn’s Disease
You play the biggest role in your Crohn’s care team. Stay on top of your appointments, treatment, and mental health care throughout your medical journey. And take steps to help yourself feel better about life with Crohn's disease. Try these self-care strategies:
- Plan something fun. Schedule an activity to look forward to, whether it's meeting a friend for lunch or watching your favorite TV show.
- Look good and feel good. Put on your favorite outfit, try a new pair of shoes, or do something special with your hair. If you take time for yourself, you’ll feel calmer and more confident.
- Take time out. You may feel overwhelmed at times. Schedule some rest breaks during the day. And don’t forget to get some sleep.