Getting a diagnosis for gastrointestinal tract problems can be especially frustrating. Case in point: Janet Long, of Attleboro, Mass. (pop. 42,068), who at age 7 began suffering from a mysterious combination of severe stomach pain and swelling in her hands and feet.
Unable to determine a link between the seemingly unrelated symptoms, doctor after doctor misdiagnosed her with allergies, intestinal problems, acid reflux and more. Finally, more than 30 years after the onset of her symptoms Long saw gastroenterologist Dr. Jacqueline Wolf who found she had hereditary angioedema, a rare and inherited immune system problem that affects the blood vessels. Once Wolf pinpointed the problem, Long received successful treatment, and her daughter also has been diagnosed and treated.
To help speed up the diagnosis of gastrointestinal ailments, follow Wolf's tips below.
- Don't wait. If diarrhea or abdominal pain don't go away after three days, or if you have rectal bleeding, see your doctor.
- Tell all. Fill your doctor in on all of your symptoms (write them down before your appointment if you need to)—even the ones that are potentially embarrassing.
- Know your history. Give your doctor complete and accurate background on all family medical problems.
- Get a second opinion. If your doctor can't pinpoint the problem or dismisses your symptoms, see someone else.