Having trouble going to the bathroom? Find out what might be to blame.
Constipation is an annoying and embarrassing problem that all of us will experience at some point. Constipation is when you are unable to have a bowel movement or you have trouble passing stools. If you are having less than three bowel movements a week then you could be dealing with constipation.
This problem isn’t usually something to worry about, as it usually resolves itself on its own. Of course, there are times in which you may want to turn to a gastroenterologist for care.
What causes constipation?
This usually happens when the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, making it difficult to expel. Causes of constipation include:
- Poor diet
- Bowel obstruction
- Anal fissures
- Bowel stricture (narrowing of the colon)
- Conditions that affect the nerves of the colon or rectum (e.g. stroke; Parkinson’s disease)
- Weak pelvic muscles
- Hormone changes due to pregnancy, diabetes, or certain thyroid disorders
There are also certain factors that can increase your chances for chronic constipation:
- Age (older adults are more likely to experience constipation)
- Not getting enough fiber in your diet
- Living a sedentary lifestyle
- Taking certain medications (e.g. antidepressants; blood pressure medications)
- Certain mental health disorders such as depression
How can you prevent constipation?
If you deal with constipation regularly there are some ways to help lessen the chances for this problem. Make sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day and include a lot of fiber-rich foods in your diet such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans. Stay away from processed foods, and make sure you are staying active.
When should I see a doctor?
It’s a good idea to give your GI doctor a call if you’ve been experiencing constipation for over 3 weeks or if lifestyle modifications such as drinking more water or adding more fiber to your diet just aren’t working. It’s also important to see a specialist as soon as possible if your constipation is accompanied by pain or if you see blood on the toilet paper (this could be a sign of hemorrhoids or an anal fissure).
If you are experiencing chronic or severe constipation it’s a good idea to turn to a GI specialist who will help you get to the root of the problem and help get your digestive tract moving in the right direction.
This diagnostic procedure could determine the root cause of your digestive issues.
An upper endoscopy is a simple procedure in which your gastroenterologist will insert a small, flexible tube that contains a camera in the mouth and guide it carefully into the upper digestive tract (stomach and small intestines). Why is this outpatient procedure performed? Many reasons, actually. Your gastroenterologist may recommend getting this procedure if there are signs of bleeding within the upper digestive system.
An endoscopy is also a great tool for being able to detect inflammation within the digestive tract, as well as ulcers and tumors. You may benefit from an endoscopy if you are experiencing:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronic heartburn
- Abdominal pain
- Chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
An upper endoscopy is a much better and more accurate diagnostic tool for detecting growths and other abnormalities within the lining the digestive system than x-rays. Furthermore, many gastrointestinal issues can often be treated during the endoscopy. This includes the biopsy and/or removal of polyps, opening up narrowed areas of the esophagus or stomach, removing objects or obstructions within the intestinal tract or stopping a bleed.
Before your procedure, your gastroenterologist will give you detailed instructions to follow. This includes not eating or drinking anything for eight hours before your endoscopy. Patients with certain conditions such as a history of endocarditis (an infection of the heart valve) or those with artificial heart valves may need to take antibiotics beforehand to reduce their risk for an infection. Patients who take medications may still take their medication before the procedure with a little bit of water.
An endoscopy is performed under sedation so you won’t feel anything or remember the procedure. It’s important that you bring someone with you who will be able to drive you home afterwards, as sedation’s effects can last up to eight hours after. Prior to the procedure, a local anesthesia may be sprayed in the back of the throat to numb the area. You will then receive a combination or pain and sedation medication through an IV. Then the thin endoscope will be placed in the mouth and directed through the esophagus into the stomach. The procedure takes approximately 15-20 minutes.
If you are experiencing symptoms of bleeding, ulcers, or other issues within the digestive system, an endoscopy can be an amazing tool for determining what’s going on and what can be done to treat the problem.
Many adults have experienced acid reflux at one time or another. Acid reflux occurs when stomach fluids regurgitate back up into the esophagus, which can produce a burning sensation in the throat and chest areas known as heartburn. Acid reflux is more properly known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Treatments are available for individuals with chronic GERD. At Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease, Dr. Ronald Boisen, Dr. Daryl McClendon, and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy are your gastroenterologists for the treatment of GERD in Anchorage, AK.
Several symptoms are associated with GERD. Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms and involves a burning sensation in the chest and throat areas caused by stomach fluids reaching the mouth. Lying down can aggravate heartburn and worsen the burning sensation. In addition to heartburn, other symptoms of GERD include:
- A bitter taste in the mouth
- Sore throat
- Dry cough
- Chest pain
Causes of GERD
GERD can be caused by a number of different factors. Certain conditions increase a person’s likelihood of developing GERD. For instance, in women, GERD often occurs during pregnancy even if a woman never experienced GERD prior to being pregnant. Obesity also increases the risk of developing GERD, as does smoking. Consumption of certain foods and beverages can induce GERD, as well. Such foods and beverages include:
- Excess alcohol
- Citrus beverages
- Tomato sauce
- Fatty foods
Treatment of GERD
Over-the-counter antacid products are available for treating mild, occasional instances of GERD. Dietary modifications can also reduce instances of GERD. Chronic and more serious cases of GERD are best treated by a gastroenterologist, as over-the-counter antacids are only effective for a short time. A gastroenterologist can prescribe an appropriate medication for long term GERD relief, such as a prescription antacid or a proton pump inhibitor.
Proton pump inhibitors treat the symptoms of reflux by blocking the final step of the acid production process in the stomach. Proton pump inhibitors are the most effective treatment for individuals experiencing frequent GERD symptoms. Examples of proton pump inhibitor medications include omeprazole, lansoprazole, rabeproazole, and pantoprazole. See an experienced gastroenterologist for treatment of GERD in Anchorage.
Effective treatments are available for preventing and alleviating the symptoms of GERD. For treatment of GERD in Anchorage, schedule an appointment with Dr. Boisen, Dr. McClendon, and Dr. Molloy by calling Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease at (907) 569-1333.
Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes severe and even bloody diarrhea that can result in abdominal pain and unexpected weight loss. While people have probably heard about Crohn’s disease more often than they have ulcerative colitis, this condition actually affects as many as 907,000 of the 1.6 million Americans living with IBD.
While ulcerative colitis can happen to anyone, a gastroenterologist most often diagnoses it during a person’s later teen years or by early adulthood. While there is no definitive cause of ulcerative colitis, a family history of this condition can certainly increase your chances of developing this chronic GI problem.
Those with ulcerative colitis experience diarrhea, which can be bloody at times. Some patients may experience rectal pain, occasional constipation, abdominal discomfort, fever, or weight loss. In order to diagnose this gastrointestinal issue, a GI specialist will often need to perform imaging tests such as a CT scan or run an endoscopy to check the health of the gastrointestinal tract and to look for signs of ulcerative colitis.
While there is currently no cure for this condition, there are certainly an array of medications and treatment options available to help you keep your symptoms and flare-ups in check. The type of treatment plan that your GI doctor will create for you will depend on the type and severity of your symptoms.
The main goals of treating ulcerative colitis are to reduce inflammation within the colon while also speeding up the remission process and making sure that your symptoms stay in remission for as long as possible. Of course, it is still possible, even with the right medication, to experience symptoms.
Common medications for treating ulcerative colitis include:
- Antibiotics: to target any infections within the GI tract
- Aminosalicylates: to treat mild to moderate inflammation within the colon
- Corticosteroids: for short-term treatment of moderate to severe symptoms
- Biologics: to target a specific protein, which leads to inflammation
Sometimes, over-the-counter medications and supplements may be used in conjunction with prescription medications. These may include vitamins and nutritional supplements, pain medications and antidiarrheal. If your ulcerative colitis doesn’t respond to these medications then you’ll want to discuss the benefits with your gastroenterologist of getting surgery to remove parts of the colon or rectum to alleviate severe or persistent symptoms.
C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) is an infection that should be talked about more often than it is despite the fact that it infects half a million Americans each year. While C. diff bacteria can be found within the gut of healthy individuals the healthy gut bacteria work to keep the potentially harmful bacteria in check. C. diff spores can be found in our environment through the air we breathe, or even the clothes on our back or the foods we consume. This is usually how we end up with C. diff in our guts.
However, sometimes circumstances arise in which C. diff bacteria are able to multiply within the gut. This most often occurs in someone who is taking antibiotics because while antibiotics are being used to fight an infection it can also kill off some of the healthy bacteria in our gut.
Unfortunately, C. diff bacteria are resistant to many kinds of antibiotics, giving it free range to thrive and multiply quickly within the gut. These bacteria, particularly in larger numbers, can also produce toxins. It’s usually the toxins themselves that lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fever.
C. diff infections can range from mild to severe. In milder cases, patients may liken their symptoms to an infection within the stomach (also known as gastroenteritis). These symptoms may be mild and self-limiting, lasting anywhere from a couple of days to multiple weeks. Usually, medication or treatment isn’t needed in order to treat the infection.
However, those dealing with severe diarrhea, blood in the stool, severe abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration should seek the care of a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. While these symptoms can be indicative of several different gastrointestinal issues, if you suspect that you might have a C. diff infection it’s important that you seek immediate medical treatment.
Since most people have C. diff within their gut, if it isn’t causing any issues then no treatment is necessary. As we mentioned before, those dealing with minor symptoms may be able to let the issue run its course. Those with severe infections may need to be hospitalized. If you are still taking the antibiotics that may have caused this problem then you will most likely need to stop taking it so that the healthy gut bacteria have a chance of returning and making the gut healthier.
Those with severe diarrhea or colitis (inflammation of the colon) may be prescribed very specific antibiotics known to kill the C. diff bacteria. In the meantime, make sure you are drinking enough water and fluids to keep your body hydrated. If diarrhea is severe, your doctor may need to give you fluids and nutrients through an IV.
Luckily, most people dealing with this infection will be able to fully recover, even if they don’t get treatment; however, those who are older or have a weak immune system should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect an infection. While symptoms can be unpleasant, they will usually go away in a few weeks.
Do you find that most mealtimes end up being ruined by gnawing, nagging heartburn? While most people will experience heartburn at some point during their lifetime, if you are someone who suffers from this problem several times a week then you may just have a digestive disorder known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
What is GERD?
Whenever you eat food, it travels from the esophagus to the stomach. Once food enters the stomach, the stomach produces acid to break up the food. Of course, in healthy individuals the food travels from the stomach to the intestines; however, if you have GERD then the acid and food contents actually flow back up to the esophagus from the stomach, irritating the lining of the throat and causing a nasty case of heartburn.
What are the symptoms?
Heartburn is a classic symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a burning in the chest that also affects the lining of the throat. Heartburn sometimes produces an acidic or bitter taste in the mouth. Symptoms may get worse if you eat a big meal, consume something spicy or lie down immediately after eating.
How is GERD diagnosed?
In some situations a gastroenterologist may be able to determine that you have GERD based on the symptoms you describe and through a simple physical exam; however, sometimes a diagnostic test is required in order to determine whether your symptoms are truly caused by GERD or something else. An upper endoscopy is one common diagnostic procedure performed to check for signs of inflammation or damage to the lining of the esophagus, which are indicative of GERD.
What are my treatment options?
Your treatment plan will most likely consist of lifestyle modifications and medications.
If you are overweight or obese you may be at a higher risk for developing GERD. It’s important to lose that excess weight and to maintain a healthy weight to reduce your symptoms. Quit smoking if you are currently a smoker. Make sure to eat slowly and eat smaller meals. Don’t lie down immediately after eating and eat about three hours before going to bed.
Also, there are certain foods that can trigger heartburn symptoms including chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, tomato sauce, garlic, or fatty and spicy foods. Limit or avoid any of these foods if they are known to cause you heartburn.
Those with milder symptoms may be able to use an over-the-counter antacid or medication to manage their symptoms; however, if symptoms are moderate-to-severe, or if you have damage to the lining of the esophagus, then you’ll need a stronger medication to reduce or even prevent the production of stomach acid until the damage has healed.
If you deal with heartburn on a regular basis or can’t seem to get heartburn under control it’s important that you turn to a GI doctor who can help you find the proper treatment option to prevent digestive complications and to make mealtimes more enjoyable again.
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. Most people have no symptoms right after they have been infected, and since any symptoms are likely to go away in a few weeks, you may not know you have Hepatitis C for a long time. Here are the most common signs of Hepatitis C.
Jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels. Normally bilirubin gets broken down in the liver and released from the body in the stool. But if the liver is damaged, it cannot properly process bilirubin.
2. Dark Urine
Urine naturally has some yellow pigments called urobilin or urochrome. The color of the urine can vary when certain medications are taken and when foods of certain types are consumed. Chronic dark-colored urine can be related to serious liver conditions, including Hepatitis C and cirrhosis.
3. Chronic Fatigue
The severity of this fatigue differs from person to person. Some individuals are able to work, but then feel burned out in the evening. Some people spend a large amount of time sleeping. However, someone people feel very tired after a good night's sleep. The fatigue associated with Hepatitis C often improves with treatment.
4. Aches and Pains
Some people with Hepatitis C experience abdominal pain. Many suffer from aches and pains in their joints. A variety of different joints can be involved but the most common are in the wrists and hands. The pains can range from mild to severe. In such cases, medications can be used to ease the pain.
5. Poor Appetite
Loss of appetite implies that hunger is absent. Your appetite may worsen if you have cirrhosis or liver failure. Loss of appetite can also be caused by other diseases and conditions. Some of the conditions can be temporary, such as appetite loss from the effects of medication.
6. Low-grade Fever
Everyone gets a fever from time to time. Most usually don't indicate anything serious. However, some people with Hepatitis C experience a low-grade fever (fever up to 102°F). You should book an appointment with a doctor if you've had a fever for more than three days.
7. Cognitive Changes
Some people with Hepatitis C experience problems with concentration, short-term memory, and completing complex mental tasks such as mental arithmetic. Studies have shown that about half of those with Hepatitis C experience cognitive disturbances.
Many people are surprised to learn that they have been infected with Hepatitis C. Some people feel overwhelmed by the changes they need to make in their lives. At a time when life feels out of control, remember that you can take an active role in your health- and your life.
Colon cancer affects thousands of Americans. According to American Cancer Society's statistics, more than 95,000 people were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016. The best way to avoid colon cancer is by visiting your Anchorage and Eagle River, AK, doctor.
Colon Cancer Screening:
A routine visit to your doctor for a colonoscopy is how most people detect cancer during its earliest stages. Board-certified physicians, Dr. Ronald Boisen, Dr. Daryl McClendon and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy, want their patients to schedule an appointment for a colonoscopy, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy, as soon as possible.
The CDC recommends adults ages 50 to 75 visit their gastroenterologist on a regular basis. Colorectal cancer usually begins as a small polyp in the colon. At first, the polyps aren't cancerous but may develop cancer over time. If you take the proper precautions of screening and keeping an eye out for symptoms, cancer can be treated or prevented.
Colon Cancer Symptoms:
Symptoms aren't always obvious. Here are the symptoms you need to keep an eye out for according to the doctors in Anchorage and Eagle River:
- Bowel Habit Changes: If you are suffering from Colon constipation, or diarrhea, for more than four weeks, that may be a sign of cancer.
- Blood in Your Stool: Hemorrhoids are usually accompanied by blood in stool, but may also be a sign of a more serious condition like cancer.
- Incomplete Evacuation: If there are constant bowel movements, even if you've just had a bowel movement, then you need to contact your doctor.
- Fatigue: Colon cancer results in patients feeling weak and fatigued.
- Weight Loss: Unexplained weight loss.
Scheduling a Colorectal Cancer Screening
If you would like more information on colonoscopies and screening procedures, you can contact the doctors at Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease. If you are in Anchorage and Eagle River, AK, call to schedule an appointment today!
You would love to just be able to sit down and enjoy a meal, but you know that not long afterward you are going to be dealing with the burning, gnawing pain in your stomach caused by heartburn. No matter if this is something that you have been facing for a while or this is a new issue you are dealing with, it’s important that you have a gastroenterologist that can help you figure out what’s going on.
It’s important to understand that heartburn isn’t a condition but a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid travels back up through the esophagus causing burning and irritation of the esophageal lining.
So, what are the leading culprits of heartburn? There are quite a few things that could cause this issue including:
Certain foods or drinks: Everything from alcohol and caffeine to acidic and spicy foods can exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Diets that are high in fatty or fried foods can also make heartburn worse.
Medications: There are certain over-the-counter medications that can also cause heartburn to flare-up.
Smoking: Smoking cigarettes can actually affect how the lower esophageal sphincter functions, allowing stomach acid to travel back through the esophagus.
A hiatal hernia: A condition in which some of the stomach protrudes into the chest.
Pregnancy: Pressure placed on the abdomen during pregnancy could increase your chances of heartburn.
Obesity: Having any additional pressure placed on the abdomen, which is common if you are overweight or obese, can bring on a nasty bout of heartburn.
Fortunately, there are many ways in which to reduce the severity and frequency of heartburn. Turning to a GI specialist is the best approach, as they can provide you with a variety of lifestyle changes and medications based on your symptoms, current health, lifestyle, and how much damage has already taken place within the esophagus.
From there, they will create a tailored treatment plan with a medication that will either greatly lessen the amount of acid the stomach produces or temporarily block stomach acid from being produced to help promote healing within the esophagus.
Lifestyle changes may include eating smaller meals, not eating right before bedtime, avoiding exacerbating foods or drinks, losing excess weight, and quitting smoking.
Don’t let heartburn make you dread sitting down to enjoy your favorite meals. There are so many ways in which to get your heartburn symptoms under control. If you are having trouble finding the right treatment option for you don’t hesitate to turn to a gastroenterologist for guidance and treatment.
Chances are good you’ve heard of a colonoscopy before, whether through a health report on the news or because you know someone who had to get one. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure and often a screening tool that allows your gastroenterologist to be able to see what the lining of the colon and intestines looks. A thin scope is inserted into the rectum and carefully directed through the lower intestines. The scope has a camera at the end that allows your doctor to pinpoint potential problems with the lining of the intestines or colon. There are a few reasons why your doctor might recommend getting a colonoscopy.
If a patient comes in complaining of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or persistent diarrhea and these symptoms can’t be explained through a routine exam and testing then your GI doctor may recommend performing a colonoscopy to be able to determine the root cause for these symptoms. This might be particularly helpful if you or a family member has a history of colon cancer or colon polyps.
Even if you are feeling fine, both men and women, once they reach 50-years-old, will need to start getting routine colonoscopies to screen for colon polyps and other signs of colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is one of the most effective screening tools a gastroenterologist has for being able to pinpoint warning signs of cancer with the large intestines and colon. No other screening tool will be able to provide the detailed imaging that a colonoscopy can.
If the results of your routine colonoscopy come back normal then you probably won’t need to repeat the procedure for another 10 years. If one or more polyps were detected during your colonoscopy your GI specialist may choose to remove them during the procedure but may recommend that you come in more regularly for a colonoscopy.
You may also need to have this procedure performed more often if you have a family or personal history of colon cancer or colon polyps. It’s important to be upfront about your detailed medical history when talking to a gastrointestinal specialist to determine the best colonoscopy schedule to protect your digestive health.
No matter if you are experiencing distressing intestinal symptoms or you just turned 50-years-old, it’s a good idea to turn to a gastrointestinal specialist who can provide you with the individualized care you need. Remember, getting a colonoscopy after you turn 50 could just end up saving your life!
Crohn's disease can cause chronic pain and inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract. Although the inflammatory bowel disease can't be cured, treatments and lifestyle changes can help you avoid flare-ups.
Inflammation can cause a range of problems
When your digestive tract is inflamed, you may experience multiple symptoms, in addition to abdominal pain. They include:
- Frequent diarrhea
- Ulcers in the digestive tract
- Weight loss
- Lack of appetite
- Lack of energy
- Rectal bleeding
- Blood in your stool
- Sores in your mouth
- Fistulas around your anus
If you have moderate to severe Crohn's disease, persistent vomiting and diarrhea, anemia, severe weight loss, abscesses and intestinal abscesses can occur. The disease can be life-threatening in some cases.
What causes Crohn's disease?
No one is sure what causes Crohn's disease, although immune system issues or genetics may make you more susceptible. You may be more likely to develop the disease if you are younger than 30, smoke, have a family history of Crohn's disease, or are white or of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.
How is Crohn's disease treated?
Reducing inflammation is the goal of Crohn's disease treatment. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and immune system suppressors that prevent your immune system from triggering an inflammatory response. Antibiotics may be recommended if you have an infection or a fistula. Because people who have Crohn's disease can experience diarrhea 10 or more times per day, anti-diarrheal medication can be helpful. Frequent diarrhea can deplete nutrients. Your doctor may recommend B12 shots or iron, vitamin D and calcium supplements to prevent malnutrition.
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may recommend a feeding tube for a period of time to give your bowel plenty of time to rest and recover. Sometimes, Crohn's disease can damage your digestive tract. Surgery may be needed to remove the damaged portions or open up areas of the intestines that have narrowed.
Eating several small meals during the day and limiting low-fat, dairy and high-fiber foods may also help you manage your symptoms. Prompt treatment and dietary changes may reduce flare-ups and might even lead to a remission of your syndrome.
Although living with Crohn's disease can be challenging at times, medical treatments and lifestyle changes can help you avoid the most serious consequences.
Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a condition affecting the large intestine or colon. It is associated with a variety of symptoms, including abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known and the condition tends to affect women more often than men. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a gastroenterologist can determine if you truly have the condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan for your symptoms.
A variety of gastrointestinal symptoms is associated with irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, consult a gastroenterologist who can make a proper diagnosis. A diagnosis of IBS is usually made by ruling out other gastrointestinal problems through blood tests, stool sample tests, x-rays, a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- abdominal pain or cramping
- mucus in stools
- recurring urgent need to have a bowel movement
Although the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, there are several treatment options for alleviating some of the discomfort associated with IBS. Dietary habits can have an impact on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Eating smaller meals during the day can ease digestion and lessen symptoms. Including more fiber during the day can also help with symptoms such as constipation. Eliminating foods, such as dairy, that aggravate the symptoms of IBS can also help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort.
Other strategies for treating irritable bowel syndrome include medications, probiotics and managing stress. Increased stress can aggravate IBS symptoms so keeping stress levels low can minimize symptoms. Additionally, probiotics and certain medications can also help improve digestion and alleviate some of the symptoms of IBS, such as gas or diarrhea. A gastroenterologist can help you determine which treatments options are best for your symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
What your gastroenterologist wants you to know
The right time to get a colonoscopy is if you are over 50 years old, or if you have a family history of colon cancer. There are also signs and symptoms to pay attention to which may indicate the need for a colonoscopy. You should see your gastroenterologist to schedule a colonoscopy if you have:
- Rectal bleeding
- Black, tarry stools which may indicate blood in your stool
- A family history of intestinal growths or polyps
- Chronic, recurrent constipation or diarrhea
- Chronic, recurrent pain in your abdomen
A colonoscopy is the primary screening tool to determine if you have colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy also helps to diagnose colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it is more easily treatable. Don’t delay having a colonoscopy because the longer you wait, the more serious colorectal cancer becomes.
The American Cancer Society states that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in this country, with over 49,000 people dying from the disease this year alone.
A colonoscopy typically requires you to be sedated. A long, ultra-thin flexible tube is inserted into your rectum and guided up through your intestines. The tube contains a camera at one end which allows your gastroenterologist to view your colon, remove polyps or take a small sample of tissue for biopsy.
When you come in for your colonoscopy, be sure to bring a driver with you to take you home, and plan on spending 2 to 3 hours in the office. The procedure takes about 45 minutes, and additional time is required for you to recover from sedation.
Remember that early diagnosis is made possible by having a colonoscopy and that early diagnosis is critical to start early treatment. You don’t want to be a cancer statistic, so if you are over 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, take the time to schedule your colonoscopy. Protect your health by calling today!
People in commercials love to talk about diarrhea and constipation, but in real life, the subjects are rarely discussed, even though they affect us all. Understanding what causes the conditions may help you avoid them.
What causes diarrhea?
Diarrhea occurs when your stools are loose, runny or completely watery. Although occasional diarrhea won't harm your health, frequent diarrhea can lead to dehydration. The condition is often caused by viruses or bacterial infections. Washing your hands frequently, particularly after touching raw foods, and cooking food completely can help reduce your chance of developing diarrhea. If you know a friend or family member is sick or has diarrhea, don't share utensils or glasses with them.
Diarrhea can also occur due to stomach irritation caused by taking antibiotics or by an intolerance to certain foods. Lactose intolerance, a condition that occurs when you have difficulty digesting sugars found in dairy products, is a common cause of diarrhea. If you've ever had to dash to the restroom after eating ice cream or pasta covered in creamy Alfredo sauce, you might have lactose intolerance.
Some health conditions can also cause diarrhea, including diabetes, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, hyperthyroidism, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pancreatitis and Addison's disease.
What causes constipation?
If you're constipated, it may be difficult or impossible to pass stools. Even if your trip to the restroom is successful, the stools you produce may be small and hard. Diet can play a part in constipation. Reducing your intake of dairy products, caffeine, alcohol and junk food can be helpful.
Resisting the urge to defecate can lead to constipation. If you're at work and decide to ignore the urge to go, you may not be able to produce any stools when you finally get home. Constipation can also occur if you change your diet or normal routine, don't exercise regularly or eat foods that aren't usually part of your diet when you're away from home.
Some health conditions can also cause constipation, including
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Spinal cord injury
Occasional bouts of diarrhea and constipation are usually nothing to worry about, particularly if they accompany an illness. If you're frequently constipated or experience diarrhea often, it's a good idea to make an appointment with a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the gastrointestinal system.
Cancerous carcinoid tumors form in the lining of your gastrointestinal tract and can be caused by certain digestive conditions. The rare tumors are often treated with surgery and medications.
What are carcinoid tumors?
Carcinoid tumors develop when a mutation occurs in the neuroendocrine cells in your digestive system. The dual-purpose cells have both nerve and endocrine features and are capable of producing hormones. Over time, the cancerous cells gradually take over healthy cells and form a tumor. Carcinoid tumors tend to form in the colon, stomach, small intestine or rectum.
Who gets carcinoid tumors?
If anyone in your family has had multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 syndrome (MEN1) or neurofibromatosis type 1 syndrome (NF1), you may be at greater risk of developing a carcinoid tumor. Your risk also rises if you have Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, pernicious anemia or atrophic gastritis. Older people and women are more likely to develop carcinoid tumors.
What are the symptoms of carcinoid tumors?
There are often no symptoms when a carcinoid tumor is small. In fact, you may only learn that you have a tumor after undergoing a routine colonoscopy or another diagnostic test. Symptoms may occur if the tumor secretes hormones or grows larger. Symptoms depend on the location of the tumor, but may include:
- Pain in the abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Rectal pain
- Stool color changes or blood in the stool
- Abdominal pain
How are carcinoid tumors treated?
Surgery is used to remove all or as much of the tumor as possible. Medications may also be helpful. Depending on your condition, your gastroenterologist may recommend interferon injections that enhance the immune system's ability to attack the tumor or medications that prevent the tumor from releasing hormones.
If your carcinoid tumor has spread to your liver, your gastroenterologist can offer several other treatment options, including cryoablation (freezing) or radiofrequency (heat) treatments to kill the cancer cells. Removing part of the liver during a surgical procedure may be helpful, as can closing off the hepatic artery that feeds the tumor.
Although most gastrointestinal symptoms aren't caused by cancer, it's important to see your gastroenterologist if you experience frequent heartburn, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating or other symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease, causes painful open sores in your large intestine and rectum. The disease can affect both children and adults. Although there is currently no cure for ulcerative colitis, symptoms can be managed with medications and dietary changes in many cases.
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
Although symptoms of ulcerative colitis vary depending on the severity of the disease, diarrhea that contains blood or pus is a frequent problem. It may be difficult to get the bathroom in time, particularly if a bout of diarrhea strikes in the middle of the night. Other symptoms can include:
- Abdominal cramping and pain
- Joint pain
- Weight loss
- Canker sores
- Rectal pain
- Difficulty defecating
If you have severe ulcerative colitis, you may be more likely to develop one or more serious complications, such as severe dehydration or bleeding, a perforated colon, osteoporosis, megacolon, blood clots or colon cancer.
What are the risk factors for ulcerative colitis?
Ulcerative colitis symptoms usually appear between the ages of 15 and 35. You're more likely to develop ulcerative colitis if other people in your family have it. Your ancestry may also affect your risk. Caucasians and people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent get the disease more often than other ethnic groups.
How is ulcerative colitis treated?
Medications that relieve inflammation and suppress your immune system can be helpful if you have ulcerative colitis. Corticosteroids may also reduce inflammation and bring about a remission of symptoms. Because prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause high blood pressure, diabetes and osteoporosis, they're only recommended for short-term use. Anti-diarrheal medications can reduce the frequency of diarrhea, while iron supplements may prevent anemia caused by bleeding.
Approximately 25 to 40 percent of people who have ulcerative colitis will eventually need surgery to remove the colon, according to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. In some cases, your surgeon may be able to connect to your small intestine to your anus, which will allow you to defecate normally. If that's not possible, a bag attached to the abdomen will be used to collect stool.
Ulcerative colitis is a serious inflammatory bowel disease, but it's symptoms can often be managed with medication, dietary changes and stress relief techniques, allowing you to live a fairly normal life.
Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pouches or sacs called diverticula form in the large intestine, or colon, and become inflamed. When the sacs are inflamed, they can bulge outward and cause abdominal pain and discomfort. In addition to abdominal pain, several other symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with this condition, see a gastroenterologist for a diagnosis and possible treatment options.
Symptoms & Causes
The exact cause of diverticulitis is unclear. However, there seems to be a link between a diet too low in fiber and the development of diverticulitis. When fiber is lacking in the diet, the colon works harder to move stools through the intestinal tract. It is possible that the pressure from the increased effort to move the stool can lead to the formation of diverticula along the interior of the color or large intestine. Maintaining a diet with sufficient fiber intake can potentially help prevent diverticulitis.
Various symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. Abdominal pain is a common symptom and tends to be felt primarily on the left side. Other symptoms associated with diverticulitis include:
- abdominal pain
A variety of options are available for treating diverticulitis. For less severe cases, a combination of antibiotics, pain relievers and a liquid diet can be sufficient to resolve the diverticulitis. More serious cases of diverticulitis in which patients cannot drink liquids can require a hospital stay. While in the hospital, all nutrition will be obtained intravenously. Avoiding eating and drinking by mouth gives the bowel time to rest and recover and can help clear up the diverticulitis. If the condition is still severe, surgery might be required.
Diverticulitis can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
Many people develop hemorrhoids at some point, particularly between the ages of 45-65. Hemorrhoids are typically associated with pain, discomfort, itching and irritation around the anus. They can also result in pain and discomfort during bowel movements. As uncomfortable as hemorrhoids can be, there are treatments that can help. See a gastroenterologist if you suspect you might have hemorrhoids. If a gastroenterologist determines you do have hemorrhoids, an appropriate treatment can be prescribed to ease the pain and discomfort.
The exact cause of hemorrhoids is not necessarily known, but several factors or conditions do seem to increase the likelihood of development hemorrhoids. Factors associated with an increased risk for development hemorrhoids include:
- Family history of hemorrhoids
- Chronic constipation
- Sitting for extended periods
- Straining during bowel movements
Hemorrhoids often go away on their own, even without treatment. However, there are various options to ease the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids. A gastroenterologist might recommend a variety of methods for easing the pain at home. These include taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and fiber supplements for softening stools. Other things that can help provide relief include soaking in a warm bath and applying a cold compress to the anus to reduce swelling.
In addition to at home remedies for alleviating the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids, there are medical procedures a gastroenterologist can perform to reduce the size of the hemorrhoids. Two popular procedures for treating hemorrhoids include a rubber band ligation and injection therapy. These procedures can be performed if other treatments and remedies have not provided substantial relief.
When struggling with hemorrhoids, the itching, irritation, pain and discomfort can interfere with your quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief and even reduce the size of the hemorrhoids. See a gastroenterologist for the treatment of your hemorrhoids.
Acute pancreatitis strikes suddenly, causing severe pain and vomiting. More than 300,000 people are admitted to U.S. hospitals every year due to acute pancreatitis, according to The National Pancreas Foundation.
What causes acute pancreatitis?
If you have gallstones, you may be at increased risk of developing acute pancreatitis. The condition can occur when stones get stuck in the common bile duct and prevent pancreatic fluids from flowing freely. Stones can also force bile to flow back into the pancreas, which may damage it.
You may also develop acute pancreatitis if your calcium or triglyceride levels are very high, or you have an autoimmune disorder, infection, an overactive parathyroid gland, cystic fibrosis or regularly take certain medications. High alcohol consumption can cause pancreatitis, particularly if you've been a heavy drinker for years. In some cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis can't be determined.
What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?
Pain from acute pancreatitis is felt in the upper part of the abdomen, although it can extend to your back. The pain may be mild at first, but may become severe and constant and may worsen after you eat or drink alcohol. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rapid pulse. Prompt treatment is essential if you experience any of these symptoms. The condition can cause bleeding, infections and may even damage your kidneys, lungs and heart if the attack is severe. Although most people recover from acute pancreatitis, the condition can be life-threatening.
How is acute pancreatitis treated?
If your condition is caused by gallstones, you'll need surgery to remove the stones. In some cases, surgery may also be needed to keep your bile ducts open. If you're admitted to the hospital, you'll be given fluids to prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea and may receive medication for nausea and pain. Foods and beverages are usually stopped for one to two days after you're admitted to the hospital.
Changing your medications, avoiding alcohol and addressing the causes of high triglyceride or calcium levels may help prevent further bouts of acute pancreatitis. If you have numerous attacks of acute pancreatitis or continue to drink alcohol, the condition can become chronic.
Although it's not always possible to prevent acute pancreatitis, you can reduce your risk by exercising regularly, following a healthy diet and avoiding heavy consumption of alcohol.
Gastroenterologists are concerned with conditions that affect the stomach, intestinal tract, colon and other organs involved in digestion and waste elimination. These conditions include certain types of cancer, biliary tract disease, ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The test that checks for these potential health issues is called an endoscopy. There are several different endoscopic procedures that allow your doctor to check the digestive system, including a colonoscopy, enteroscopy and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Find out more about getting an endoscopy and whether it’s time for you to have this test.
What Is an Endoscopy?
During an endoscopy, a long tube is inserted into an orifice (usually the mouth or anus) to look at the organs of the body. The tube, called an endoscope, has a camera that allows your doctor to view the targeted area. In the case of a colonoscopy, the endoscope is inserted into the rectum and provides a visual of your colon and intestines. An enteroscopy views the small intestine and an upper GI endoscopy looks at the parts of your upper intestinal tract, including the esophagus.
What Does an Endoscopy Detect?
An endoscopy can detect polyps (benign and precancerous) as well as cancerous tumors. It can also identify the presence of ulcers, inflammation and other damage to the wall of the intestines or stomach. An upper GI endoscopy can determine the cause of heartburn, chest pain and problems swallowing your food. In some cases, polyps or objects can be removed during the procedure or tissue samples may be taken. A stent can also be inserted in restricted areas of the stomach, esophagus or intestinal tract.
Do You Need this Test?
Here are a few indications that you should see your gastroenterologist soon for an endoscopy:
- You have intense pain in the abdomen or have been diagnosed with digestive problems
- You have severe acid reflux or chronic heartburn
- You feel as if there is some type of blockage in your intestinal tract (such as long-term constipation)
- There’s blood in the stool
- There’s a family history of colon cancer
- You’re over the age of 50
See Your Gastroenterologist
An endoscopy is not a test that you want to delay long if you’re concerned about your stomach, colon and digestive health. Call a gastroenterologist in your area to schedule an initial consultation and exam today.
Gastroenterologists, also called GI doctors, are concerned with a wide array of issues involving the digestive system. One concern for gastroenterologists is precancerous polyps in the colon, rectum and other areas of the intestinal tract. It’s wise to be informed about polyps and how they may affect your gastroenterological and overall health.
What Are Precancerous Polyps?
A polyp is a small, fleshy nodule that forms on the inside of the intestines or colon. It is considered an abnormal growth, but in many cases, they are found to be benign (commonly in the early stages). However, over time polyps can become large and malignant if they aren’t treated. Many polyps are found to be pre-cancerous, which means they have the potential to turn cancerous if they aren’t removed. With early detection through an endoscopic test, the risk can be eliminated by your gastroenterologist.
What Are the Potential Causes?
Doctors aren’t definitively sure what causes polyps to form, but there are a number of theories. Here are a few:
- Heredity (a family history of colon or intestinal problems) or certain hereditary conditions
- Poor diet or lack of nutrition
- Lack of exercise and regular physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- Diagnosis of ulcerative or Crohn’s colitis
- The natural aging process for some patients (which is why regular exams are recommended after age 50)
What to Do About Them
The good news is that precancerous polyps can usually be quickly and effectively treated by your gastroenterologist. They are diagnosed through an exam called a virtual colonoscopy. A tube called a fiber-optic scope is inserted into the rectum that can identify the presence of a polyp and take a sample for a biopsy. If it is precancerous, your GI doctor can remove the polyp at another colonoscopy appointment. You should make this polyp removal appointment a priority.
Make an Appointment with a Gastroenterologist
The health of your digestive and elimination system is crucial to your overall health. Whether you’re in need of an initial endoscopic test to check for polyps or you’ve already been diagnosed with a precancerous polyp, call a gastroenterologist in your area for an appointment.
When it comes to matters involving your digestive tract, stomach, and colon, a gastroenterologist is the doctor to consult with. GI specialists also help patients with matters involving the pancreas, gallbladder, liver and other organs involved in the elimination of waste. Here are some of the most common frequently asked questions that patients have for gastroenterologists.
What Does a Gastroenterologist Do?
A gastroenterologist is tasked with studying, managing and treating disorders involving the gastrointestinal tract. They diagnose potential problems that stand in the way of your body’s ability to comfortably and easily digest food, move it through the body and get rid of waste. It’s important that your gastrointestinal system is healthy so that your body absorbs the nutrition it needs for energy and vitality. GI doctors undergo rigorous training in this specialized area of medicine for five or six years after medical school.
What Tests Are Needed?
There are a number of tests that a gastroenterologist may recommend depending on your digestive concerns. Here are a few of the most common ones:
- Colonoscopy (checks rectum, colon, and intestinal tract)
- Upper GI endoscopy (checks esophagus and upper gastro system)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy (similar to a colonoscopy, but only examines a portion of the colon)
- Endoscopic or abdominal ultrasound
- Abdominal Angiogram
- CT enterography
What Treatments Are Administered?
If a problem is identified in the gastrointestinal tract or system, there are a number of possible solutions your GI doctor may explore:
- Polyp removal (done with an endoscope)
- Esophageal, colonic, duodenal or bile duct stent placement (allows the comfortable passage of bodily fluids, solids, and waste)
- Cecostomy (clears bowels)
- Surgical procedures (such as bowel surgery, appendectomy, colostomy, proctectomy, gastric bypass surgery, etc)
Ask More Questions at Your Initial Appointment
Whatever specific questions you may have for a gastroenterologist, they are best addressed at your first visit. You should make this important appointment when recommended by your primary physician or when you have symptoms of a GI problem (bleeding, chronic constipation or diarrhea, heartburn and similar concerns), Call a gastroenterologist in your area to schedule a consultation today.
Are you suffering from bloating or constipation? Is your heartburn becoming a serious nuisance, or a serious problem? Are you in need of a gastroenterologist? If these are only a few of the problems you are experiencing with your gastrointestinal tract, then you may need to speak to a gastroenterologist.
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