Second opinions are common, and they’re often an invaluable way to gain insight and peace of mind when it comes to your current diagnosis and treatment strategy.

Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC) make up the two primary types of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

In CD, chronic inflammatory processes in your gastrointestinal (GI) tract — particularly in the small intestine and the beginning of the large intestine — can create distressing symptoms like intense abdominal cramping, weight loss, and persistent diarrhea.

If you’ve received a CD diagnosis, you’ve likely been through a variety of laboratory tests, diagnostic scans, and medical procedures that all confirm the diagnosis. Your doctor has likely already created a treatment plan for you based on your individual circumstances.

With everything pointing to CD and a treatment plan in place, seeking a second opinion might feel unnecessary. However, there are several other reasons why getting a second opinion for Crohn’s disease might still be right for you.

A second opinion is a diagnosis, treatment, or management recommendation from a doctor other than your regular doctor. You can obtain a second opinion on any part of your diagnostic journey, from the diagnosis itself to the use of emerging therapies or clinical trials.

Seeking a second opinion doesn’t mean you don’t respect your original doctor or that you’re automatically leaving your current doctor’s care (though you may choose to do so after receiving a second opinion, and that’s OK too).

Most good doctors understand when patients want additional expert input, and the medical community generally encourages and accepts this practice.

People seek second opinions for a variety of reasons; not necessarily because they doubt the validity of a diagnosis. Second opinions can be an essential part of CD management and can provide peace of mind as well as new therapeutic opportunities.

Confirmation of diagnosis

While your description of symptoms can suggest the existence of CD, the diagnosis gets confirmed through a battery of tests, including medical procedures like intestinal endoscopy to view and sample tissue in your GI tract.

Despite all the ways to evaluate CD, a definitive diagnosis can be challenging. A number of other conditions can mimic the symptoms and internal signs of CD, and early stages of the condition may be difficult to detect through testing.

It’s OK to want another doctor to review your test results — or repeat them — and confirm the diagnosis to ensure treatment can be effective.

If you were told you have CD without the input of laboratory tests, imaging, or endoscopy, another doctor will be able to provide these services to confirm or discount the diagnosis.

You feel uncertainty about a recommended treatment

Your treatment strategy for CD depends on your symptoms, disease severity, personal preferences, and overall health. Your doctor will create a plan for medications, lifestyle changes, and surgical procedures that takes these factors into account.

There are many different therapy options available for the treatment of CD, and not every treatment will work identically for every person.

If you’re uncertain about a procedure or medication your doctor has recommended, a second opinion can provide peace of mind that it’s the best option for you at this time.

Symptoms aren’t improving

If you’ve been through several treatments and your symptoms aren’t improving, a second opinion for Crohn’s disease may help. As many as one-third of people with IBD don’t respond to first-line therapies in what’s known as “refractory IBD.”

If your symptoms aren’t improving, a second opinion could offer new opportunities for treatment options, especially if you visit a doctor with extensive experience in treating refractory IBD.

Your doctor isn’t extensively experienced in this area

Therapies for IBD are constantly evolving, and new options are emerging. Not all doctors will be as familiar with the latest therapies or will feel comfortable utilizing them.

If you’ve read about a CD therapy you’d like to try (or discuss trying) and your doctor doesn’t have experience with it, a second opinion could open up access to that treatment or help you understand if it’s a good choice for you.

The same can be said if your CD diagnosis is complicated and your doctor doesn’t have a history of treating complex cases. You may want a second opinion from a doctor with an extensive background in treating more nuanced CD and its complications.

You’re not comfortable with your doctor

Sometimes people don’t mesh well with their CD doctor, their clinical staff, or the culture in their medical facility. If you don’t like your doctor on a personal level, it’s difficult to build trust, communicate, and feel comfortable in their care.

Finding a doctor that’s the right fit for your personality is just as important as finding one that’s knowledgeable about CD. If you’re not happy with your current care for any reason, seeking a second opinion is completely acceptable.

If you’re wondering how to make the most of a second opinion (and how to go about it, period), these tips can help get you started:

Before your visit

  • Connect with CD support groups in your area for doctor recommendations.
  • Research online doctor reviews.
  • Ask loved ones and friends if they have any doctors they highly recommend.
  • Speak with your other medical specialists about doctors they’d recommend.
  • Gather your test results and medical history.
  • Contact your health insurance to confirm providers in your network.
  • Learn as much as you can about CD and its available treatments.
  • Write a list of questions for your second opinion doctor.

During your visit

  • Take notes to review later.
  • Ask a loved one to come with you to help you retain information and provide their perspective after.
  • Don’t be afraid to request in-depth explanations or ask for clarification.
  • Discuss your diagnosis, treatment plan, and prognosis.
  • Discuss lifestyle changes that support your overall wellness.

Remember, you don’t have to stop at a second opinion. You can get a third opinion as well. There’s no limit to how many doctors you can visit. Take your time to find a medical professional that meets your personal comfort needs as well as your medical ones.

It’s perfectly OK to seek a second opinion for your Crohn’s disease. If you want to confirm your diagnosis, explore new therapy options, or work with a doctor highly experienced in CD, a second opinion might be right for you.

It’s also OK to get a second opinion because you’re not comfortable with your care on a personal or emotional level. When you live with a chronic condition, feeling confident and secure with your doctor is a big part of finding treatment success.