Preparing for your appointment

You might start by seeing your primary care provider. Or, you may be referred immediately to a doctor who specializes in digestive disorders (gastroenterologist). If you're having signs and symptoms of internal bleeding, you may be told to immediately call 911 or your local emergency number to be taken to the hospital for urgent care.

Here's some information to help you get ready for an appointment.

What you can do

When you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as fasting before a specific test. Make a list of:

  • Your symptoms, including any that seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
  • Key personal information, including major stresses, recent life changes or recent travels, family and personal medical history, and your alcohol use
  • All medications, vitamins or other supplements you take, including doses
  • Questions to ask your doctor.

Take a family member or friend along, if possible, to help you remember information you're given.

For esophageal varices, questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's likely causing my symptoms?
  • What other possible causes are there?
  • What tests do I need?
  • What's the best course of action?
  • What are the side effects of the treatments?
  • Are my symptoms likely to recur, and what can I do to prevent that?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Are there brochures or other printed materials I can have? What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you questions, such as:

  • When did your symptoms begin?
  • Have your symptoms stayed the same or gotten worse?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Have you had signs of bleeding, such as blood in your stools or vomit?
  • Have you had hepatitis or yellowing of your eyes or skin (jaundice)?
  • Have you traveled recently? Where?
  • If you drink alcohol, when did you start and how much do you drink?

What you can do in the meantime

If you develop bloody vomit or stools while you're waiting for your appointment, call 911 or your local emergency number or go to an emergency room immediately.

June 18, 2016
References
  1. Sanyal AJ. General principles of the management of variceal hemorrhage. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 19, 2015.
  2. AskMayoExpert. Esophageal and gastric varices. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
  3. Sanyal AJ, et al. Prediction of variceal hemorrhage in patients with cirrhosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 19, 2015.
  4. LaBrecque D, et al. Global guidelines: Esophageal varices. World Gastroenterology Organisation. www.worldgastroenterology.org/.../esophageal-varices/esophageal-varices-English. Accessed Dec. 19, 2015.
  5. Bajaj JS, et al. Methods to achieve homeostasis in patients with acute variceal hemorrhage. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 19, 2015.
  6. Varices. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal-disorders/gi-bleeding/varices. Accessed Dec. 19, 2015.
  7. Runyon BA. Patient information: Esophageal varices (beyond the basics). http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 21, 2015.
  8. Cirrhosis. American Liver Foundation. http://www.liverfoundation.org/abouttheliver/info/cirrhosis/. Accessed Dec. 21, 2015.