We love doctors. One of the reasons we created GIThrive is to help gastroenterologists. GIThrive is designed to bridge gaps in care, making it easier for patients to follow GI docs’ advice. That said, here’s a summary of another academic article our gut health nerds found interesting…
In a 2016 study, researchers wanted to learn what, if any, misperceptions GI docs had about ulcerative colitis (UC). Why? Because for UC, misinformation abounds, even in the medical community, and because doctors have a major influence on treatment.
A little context
UC and Crohn’s disease are classified as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Both involve chronic inflammation of the digestive tract that, over time, can result in surgery to remove portions of the gut that are beyond repair. Symptoms of IBD are severe and life altering. Uncontrollable bouts of diarrhea, painful ulcers, mouth and eye sores, extreme tiredness, malnutrition, and strains on mental health are all common with IBD.
Researchers began by breaking down the way doctors view treatment strategies for IBD. They looked at three major things: doctors’ perceptions of UC, their ideas about disease severity, and their goals for treatment.
A huge disparity between fact and belief.
For example, many doctors regard UC as “more benign” than Crohn’s disease. The fact is, despite advancements in UC treatment, approximately half of UC patients still don’t achieve and sustain remission. About 15% undergo a colectomy (surgery to remove all or part of the colon) within 20 years of UC diagnosis.
The study also noted that gastroenterologists tend to underestimate the physical and psychological impacts of disease on their UC patients, compared to other patients. Doctors tend to discount just how disruptive UC symptoms are to day-to-day life. On top of that, the study found some doctors often overestimate their patients’ ability to manage their UC.
What to do about it
Before we throw GI docs under the bus, it’s important to note that the overwhelming majority do their very best to treat UC. Most doctors do all they can to help their patients navigate the ins and outs of disease management. What the study found is that some doctors may unintentionally be under-treating UC patients because they just don’t realize how severe their disease state really is.
So, if you’ve got UC, how do you make sure you’re getting the very best from your doctor?
- Speak up. Don’t assume your doc automatically knows how you’re doing. If your symptoms aren’t under control or you’re struggling with management, tell your doctor. Ask for help.
- Do your research. Visit reputable medical websites and explore other changes you can make (diet, exercise, medication, lifestyle) to make a real impact on your condition.
- Make suggestions. If you think something different might work, suggest it to your doctor. Have an open dialogue.
Remember, be honest with your providers. Doctors want to be helpful, but they can’t fix a problem they don’t know about.