Gastroenterology worldwide health and medical information
The food you eat travels through a complex and finely tuned digestive system. As with most sophisticated systems, sometimes our digestive tract does not function smoothly. Gastroenterology studies comprehensive care for the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders, including issues with the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, pancreas, and liver.
Gastroenterology includes common and important conditions such as colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux, peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallbladder and biliary tract disease, nutritional problems, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and pancreatitis. In essence, all normal activity and disease of the digestive organs is part of the study of Gastroenterology.
What is a Gastroenterologist?
A Gastroenterologist is a physician with dedicated training management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Some Gastroenterologists receive special recognition from national societies when they demonstrate extraordinary achievement in research, teaching, or other unique service to the field of Gastroenterology.
To be eligible for training or fellowship in gastroenterology, a medical doctor must first complete residency training in Internal Medicine for three years. Gastroenterology training lasts another 2 to 3 years. During training, doctors go through an intensive program to gain in-depth, full understanding of gastrointestinal problems. They are trained in the proper evaluation, as well as properly interpreting symptoms, findings and biopsy results in order to recommend the most appropriate treatment.
Diseases that affect the organs of the gastrointestinal system are the following:
Gastroenterologists can diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of gut-related conditions.
While many may associate a gastroenterologist with being just a stomach doctor, keep in mind that these specialists help treat conditions for many different areas of your body. Symptoms affecting anywhere from your esophagus all the way down to your rectum may be treated by a gastroenterologist. There could be many reasons you should consult a gastroenterologist, or a digestion doctor, if you are experiencing abnormal symptoms.
Your regular doctor might refer you to a gastroenterologist if you have any of the following problems:
The rule of thumb is that less than three bowel movements a week indicate constipation. If you are affected by constipation, it could mean a serious digestive issue is causing it. Constipation can most often affect older people, people who are dehydrated, or have diets that are low in fiber.
The opposite of constipation, diarrhea is too many bowel movement that aren't solid. This, too, can indicate an issue with your digestion. You may feel cramps in your stomach or notice watery stools when you use the restroom. It's important to note that although common, having regularly-occurring diarrhea could indicate a more serious underlying condition, like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
While heartburn is fairly common, consistent heartburn is the sign of a larger issue like acid reflux, or GERD.
If you have stomach pain, gallstones, or hardened buildup of the digestive fluid that breaks down your food, could be the culprit. Sometimes the pain can last hours, but most that experience this pain report that it can come on suddenly and intensely. If this pain is consistently severe, you should seek out a gastroenterologist, because you might need to have your gallbladder removed.
You don't need to have symptoms to see a gastroenterologist! A digestion doctor can also help you stay on top of your colonoscopy exams, which you should be having done every 5-10 years if you're over the age of 50.
After a certain age, older adults should make a habit of screening for cancer that could affect your digestive tract. This means screenings for colorectal cancer, intestinal cancer, and beyond.
An ulcer, otherwise known as open sores in your stomach and intestine, can manifest with burning stomach pain. Basically, any time you eat, the acid that would break down the food is what causes you pain. If antacids aren't doing the trick, it's time to see a specialist.
If you are consistently feeling bloated after eating, or even experiencing pain, it could be something in your diet that is causing it. Do you get a stomachache after drinking milk? A gastroenterologist would be able to pinpoint the cause.
When the veins in your rectum become irritated, they swell. This is where hemorrhoids come from. It is also a fairly common issue, and a specialist should be able to treat it quickly and easily.
Blood in the stool is often a serious sign that something isn't right. If you notice any rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, seek out a doctor that specializes in digestion, or ask for a referral from your primary care doctor.
These specialists perform a range of nonsurgical procedures. This can include:
During an endoscopy, a gastroenterologist uses a camera that attaches to a long, thin tube called an endoscope to look inside the body.
They insert the endoscope through the mouth, down the throat, and into the esophagus. It sends images back to a screen for monitoring.
A gastroenterologist might perform an endoscopy to investigate symptoms such as:
These procedures are similar to an endoscopy, but they require the gastroenterologist to insert the tube into the rectum, rather than the mouth.
A gastroenterologist can see the entire colon and rectum during a colonoscopy. A sigmoidoscopy only allows them to examine the rectum and lower colon.
During these procedures, gastroenterologists might be looking for:
During a polypectomy, a gastroenterologist will remove one or more polyps from the lining of the bowel.
Polyps are noncancerous growths that can develop on the colon. They are very common, affecting 30% of those over the age of 50 years in the United States.
The gastroenterologist will either remove the polyps with wire loop forceps or use an electric current to burn them off during a colonoscopy.
During esophageal dilation, a gastroenterologist will stretch out a narrowed area of the esophagus.
Acid reflux can scar this muscular tube, narrowing it and making it hard for a person to swallow food.
Layers of excess tissue, cancer of the esophagus, and scarring from radiation treatment can all lead to the same problem.
The gastroenterologist stretches the tube by using a plastic dilator or inflating a balloon. They will usually carry this out during an endoscopy.
The gastroenterologist may sedate the person for the procedure. Alternatively, they may apply a local anesthetic spray to the back of the person’s throat.
This drugs widely prescribed to reduce stomach acid, known as proton pump inhibitors or PPIs, include:
If you are currently taking any of these medications, consult with your doctor before altering or discontinuing use.
The primary goal of research in the field of Gastroenterology is to create scientific discoveries relevant to gastrointestinal and liver diseases and translate those discoveries into clinical practice. Also to support and maintain fundamental, laboratory-based research programs as well as clinical research programs focused on pathophysiology, epidemiology and the conduct of clinical trials. Research topics include the study of treatments for liver and pancreas disease, investigation of new technologies used in the identification and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease, as well as irritable bowel syndrome and other motility disorders, development of a new generation of endoscopes to perform incision-free procedures and much more.
This medications relieves symptoms such as heartburn, difficulty swallowing, and persistent cough. It helps heal acid damage to the stomach and esophagus, helps prevent ulcers, and may help prevent cancer of the esophagus.