Posts for category: GI Care
One of the most effective screening methods for detecting the earliest signs of colorectal cancer is through a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows a gastroenterologist to be able to examine the lining of the rectum and colon (lower intestines) to look for precancerous polyps and other warning signs. These precancerous polyps can also be removed during a colonoscopy before they have the chance to develop into cancer. This is why colon cancer screenings are so important.
Who should get regular colon cancer screenings?
Men and women who are between the ages of 45 and 75 should see their gastroenterologist for regular colon cancer screenings. While there are other methods for screening for colon cancer (e.g. stool test; flexible sigmoidoscopy) a colonoscopy is the most effective and accurate screening tool available.
If a patient has never had polyps or other precancerous warning signs they may not need to get further colorectal cancer screenings after age 75. Patients with risk factors may require additional routine screenings after the age of 75.
Of course sometimes it’s necessary to get a colon cancer screening before 45 years old. You may benefit from getting tested earlier if:
- You or an immediate family member has a history of colorectal polyps or colon cancer
- You’ve been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
- You lead an inactive, sedentary lifestyle
- You have a poor diet that is high in fat and low in fiber
- You’ve been diagnosed with diabetes
- You are obese
- You are a heavy alcohol consumer
- You are a smoker
- You’ve undergone radiation therapy to treat cancer
If you have any risk factors it’s important that you talk with your gastroenterologist to find out when you should start getting regular screenings and which screening is right for you based on your health coverage.
What should I expect from a colorectal cancer screening?
As we mentioned, the most common screening tool for colon cancer is a colonoscopy. During this procedure we will insert a thin flexible tube (called an endoscope) into the rectum and gently guide it through the large intestines. At the end of this endoscope is a camera. This camera will allow your GI doctor to look for polyps and other problem. If polyps are found they can be removed during your colonoscopy. If nothing is found during your diagnostic testing, a colonoscopy can take as little as 30 minutes. The patient will be under the effects of conscious sedation throughout the procedure.
Do you have questions about getting a colonoscopy? Is it time to schedule your first routine colon cancer screening? If so, then call your intestinal doctor today.
Your gastrointestinal health needs diligent care. If you suffer from heartburn (also called acid reflux or GERD), don't ignore the pain, burning sensation, difficulty swallowing, and pressure. Contact Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease in Anchorage or Eagle River. Dr. Boisen, Dr. McClendon, and Dr. Molloy are board-certified in gastroenterology and internal medicine. They can help you manage this potentially damaging condition.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn is the nickname for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, the back-up of stomach contents and acid into the esophagus after a meal. Increasing in frequency with age and obesity, GERD causes considerable discomfort, a burning sensation in the area of the breastbone and mimics heart attack pain in intensity.
While many people choose to just live with heartburn and take over the counter medications for relief, your Anchorage gastroenterologists stress that no one should downplay or ignore reflux symptoms which last more than a week or so. The American College of Gastroenterology agrees, saying that repeated episodes of GERD may lead to:
- Erosions, ulcers and strictures in the esophagus
- Asthma-like symptoms (coughing most notably)
- Persistent chest discomfort
- Barrett's Esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition in which the cells lining the esophagus change to resemble those lining the stomach
- Esophageal and stomach cancer
As such, always mention heartburn symptoms to your primary care physician who may recommend evaluation by the team at Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease.
Drs. Molloy, McClendon and Boisen fully evaluate their patients regarding heartburn symptoms, asking about intensity, frequency and what may precipitate an attack. The gastroenterologist often advises physical examination via upper GI endoscopy (a lighted scope and video imaging) or video capsule endoscopy which sends imaging via a tiny camera which travels through the entire GI tract. These results will tell him the extent of your condition, show him any changes--cancerous or not--and help him tailor a care plan suited to your needs.
Common treatments for heartburn, include:
- Limiting acidic and fatty foods
- Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight
- Wearing loose clothing (particularly at belt level)
- Elevating the head of the bed
- Practicing good posture
- Not eating for three hours before going to bed
- Taking proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec, and H2 inhibitors, such as Zantac
Feel better and be healthier
Be well informed on your acid reflux, and allow the experts at Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease help. For a consultation with one of our gastroenterologists, please call for an appointment at either our Anchorage or Eagle River, AK, offices at (907) 569-1333.
A polyp: you may have heard of this condition, but remain unsure on what exactly it is. Most commonly developed in the colon, polyps are small clumps of cells that grow inside various parts of the body. Although some polyps are benign, others can develop into cancer, making it crucial that you receive periodic colonoscopies from your gastroloenterologist. Read on to learn more about colon polyps, and if you are in need of a colonoscopy, make sure to call your local gastroenterologist to make an appointment!
What exactly are colon polyps?
As mentioned above, polyps are small clumps of cells that generally develop in the nasal passage, uterine lining, vocals cords, stomach lining, and most commonly in the colon lining. Projected to develop in fifty percent of the population over time, colon polyps come in two distinct categories:
- Hyperplastic Polyps: Definitively noncancerous, these benign cell clumps are small and grow near the end of the colon
- Adenomatous Polyps: This polyp variety affects more people than its counterpart, and carries the possibility of becoming cancerous, although this development usually takes years to occur.
Although colon polyps generally do not show any immediate symptoms, some warning signs certainly do spring up over time. These signs include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abnormal stool color
- Shifts in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
How can I stay healthy?
Given that polyps usually do not exhibit any symptoms until late into their development, the best course of defense against this potentially deadly condition is to receive regular colonoscopies once you reach the age of 50.
A colonoscopy is a minor procedure in which a small, camera-equipped tool is inserted into the anus so that a doctor may examine the colon. If any polyps are discovered, the doctor can then remove them and send a sample to the lab for a biopsy. In the event that the sample tests positive for cancer, your doctor can discuss any further steps that need to be taken.
Concerned? Give us a call!
If you are in need of a colonoscopy, be sure to give your local gastroenterologist a call and receive the treatment that you need!
Peptic ulcers, or stomach ulcers, are breaks or holes in the lining of the stomach. An ulcer in the first part of the intestines is known as a duodenal ulcer. An ulcer in the stomach is known as a gastric ulcer. If you think you may have an ulcer, you should see a gastroenterologist. Gastroenterologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of peptic ulcers. Here are 5 signs you may have a peptic ulcer.
1. Burning pain- The most common peptic ulcer symptom is a burning sensation or gnawing pain in the middle of your abdomen. The pain may come and go for several days or weeks. Even though discomfort may be mild, peptic ulcers can worsen if they aren’t treated. Taking antacids can relieve the discomfort, but it will keep coming back until the peptic ulcer is treated by a doctor.
2. Nausea- The symptoms of peptic ulcers may include nausea. Nausea is a feeling of sickness with an inclination to vomit. Nausea has many possible causes. Some common causes of nausea include appendicitis, infection, reactions to some medicines, migraines, food poisoning or intestinal blockage.
3. Vomiting- The symptoms of peptic ulcers may include vomiting. Vomiting after consumption of food may be caused by an ulcer, food poisoning, or gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining). Usually, vomiting is harmless, but it can be a sign of a serious condition. Some examples of serious conditions that may result in vomiting include Acute liver failure, appendicitis, Pancreatic cancer, or intestinal blockage.
4. Discolored stool- Blood in the stool is often a sign of a problem in the digestive tract. Blood in the stool may come from any area along your digestive tract. A stomach ulcer can cause discolored stools that appear darker or bloody. A bloody stool may indicate that your stomach ulcer is growing in size or is becoming more severe.
5. Heartburn- Another symptom of peptic ulcers is heartburn. Heartburn is a condition that's caused when stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. This leads to a burning discomfort below your breastbone or in your upper belly. Your doctor will prescribe medications to relieve your symptoms and help your ulcer heal.
If you have any of these signs and symptoms, you should seek treatment. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring the relief you need. Peptic ulcers can not only be uncomfortable causing you pain but can also lead to other complications that may be dangerous.
What is diverticulitis?
Normally, we pay no attention to our large intestines, but if you have symptoms of diverticulitis, you're well aware of your bowel. Painful, inflamed bulges in the intestinal wall, diverticula are worrisome and potentially dangerous. If your physician suspects you have this GI condition common in the over-60 population, seek the services of a gastroenterologist. Specially trained in diverticulitis, and the less serious diverticulosis, a GI specialist can diagnose and treat your bowel health for better long-term function and well-being.
Symptoms of diverticulitis
Diverticulitis is serious infection which requires medical attention. Symptoms include:
- Intense lower abdominal pain
- Blood in the stool
- Pus and mucus with your bowel movements, indicating infection
- Fruits and vegetables
- Dairy products
Is it constipation? Is it diarrhea? Frankly, when a patient complains to his or her physician about GI problems, the doctor has to wonder, "Is it Irritable Bowel Syndrome?" If you alternate between infrequent and too frequent bowel movements, you may need evaluation by a gastroenterologist. An expert in all things from your esophagus through your stomach and intestines, a GI doctor can uncover the reasons behind bowel issues, including IBS.
About IBS and its symptoms
Unfortunately, no one knows the real origin of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. However, it definitely is a cluster of symptoms which millions of people in the US--more women than men--suffer, before the age of 50. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders reports that stress appears to increase symptoms; however, anxiety and a high-pressure job or life circumstance do not actually cause the condition.
Besides constipation and/or diarrhea, individuals with IBS have:
- Bouts of gas
- Mucus in the stool
- Intolerance to a variety of foods, including those containing gluten and lactose (dairy)
- Dairy products
- Caffeinated drinks
- High fat or fried foods
- Whole grains
Unfortunately, many of us eat the foods we crave before thinking about how it affects our digestive health. Your digestive health is directly impacted by the lifestyle you live and the foods you eat. Exercising, drinking water, and adding fiber all contribute to better digestive health. Here are five digestive problems that are caused by a poor diet.
1. GERD- GERD is a digestive disorder in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining. Symptoms include heartburn, hoarseness, and trouble swallowing. Some foods and beverages are known to cause reflux. If you're at risk for GERD, avoid fatty foods, acidic foods, spicy foods, chocolate, and caffeinated beverages. Being overweight and obesity are also causes of GERD.
2. Cancer- Diet can also directly affect your risk of stomach and bowel cancer. Some foods, such as processed and salt-preserved foods, and red meat can increase the risk of developing stomach and bowel cancer. While others, such as vegetables and fruits, are especially potent cancer fighters. Choosing whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas instead of refined grains, and eating poultry, fish, or beans may also help lower your risk of stomach and bowel cancer.
3. Gallstones- Slimming down (if you're overweight) and changes to your diet may help prevent gallstones. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile inside the gallbladder. Because cholesterol plays a role in the development of gallstones, you should avoid eating too many foods that are high in saturated fat. Eating too many foods that are high in cholesterol and fat and not enough of a high-fiber diet can increase your risk of gallstones.
4. Ulcerative Colitis- Eating a high-fat diet increases the risk of developing ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a digestive disease that results in inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include fatigue, rectal bleeding, anemia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and feeling an urgent need to take a bowel movement. It's a serious disease that can cause dangerous complications if you don't get the right treatment.
5. Diverticulosis- Diverticulosis is a condition in which protruding pockets develop in the digestive tract. These pouches form when high pressure inside the large intestine pushes against weak spots in the intestinal wall. A high-fiber diet will reduce the risk of developing diverticular disease. Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloody stools, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Diverticulitis can become serious, requiring hospital admission.
We really are what we eat! Swap those poor eating habits over for better ones. A healthy diet provides important minerals, vitamins, and nutrients to keep the body healthy. You can start making proactive changes to your diet today that can benefit your digestive health now, and throughout your entire life.
Heartburn--it's that uncomfortable, irritating pain in the center of your chest after you eat. Also called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, heartburn affects people of all ages. When heartburn persists, your gastroenterologists in Anchorage and Eagle River, AK can help. At Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease, Dr. Ronald Boisen, Dr. Daryl McClendon and Dr. Jeffrey Molloy understand heartburn and how best to prevent it and treat it.
Why heartburn happens
Maybe your Grandpa called it "backup," and he was right. GERD symptoms happen when stomach contents, including acid, back up into the food pipe, or esophagus.
Why does this occur? A weak esophageal sphincter, the gateway between the food pipe and the stomach, often is to blame as are:
- A hiatal hernia, when part of the stomach intrudes into the opening in the breathing muscle, or diaphragm
- Spicy, chocolaty, and greasy food choices which irritate the lining of the stomach and make it more active
- Clothes that are too tight at the waistline
- Excessive alcohol use
- Certain medications
What can you do?
Over the counter antacid medications often control heartburn symptoms. However, if symptoms persist beyond two weeks, say physicians at the Cleveland Clinic, see your gastroenterologist in Anchorage or Eagle River.
He may wish to inspect the lining of your esophagus and stomach with an outpatient procedure called an endoscopy. This lighted instrument helps the doctor uncover conditions such as Barrett's Esophagus, ulcers, and other issues which could be causing your heartburn symptoms.
A common care plan
Many heartburn patients respond well to simple lifestyle modifications such as:
- Losing weight
- Wearing clothes which fit properly at the waist
- Stopping all tobacco
- Limiting alcohol
- Stopping food and beverages three hours before bedtime
- Raising the head of the bed a few inches
- Sleeping on the left side to alleviate pressure on the abdomen
- Reducing stress through exercise
- Taking prescribed proton pump inhibitors or H2 antagonists to reduce acid production in the stomach
The American College of Gastroenterology says that at least 60 million Americans experience heartburn. If you're one of them, don't suffer. Contact Alaska Digestive and Liver Disease for an evaluation and help in managing your symptoms. We have two locations to serve you--one in Anchorage and one in Eagle River, AK. Use this number for an appointment at either office: (907) 569-1433. We look forward to seeing you!
Gallstones are a very common problem. You're at risk of developing gallstones if you're overweight or obese, female, or 40 or over. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile inside the gallbladder. Many people with gallstones are unaware that they have them, as they produce no or little symptoms. For some people, however, gallstones can cause problems. Here are four signs and symptoms of a gallstone.
1. Abdominal Pain
Symptoms of a gallstone may include severe abdominal pain. This pain goes and comes back repeatedly. The pain often occurs after eating and can last a few hours before it resolves. Chronic, ongoing pain that persists beyond a few hours may also occur, and may indicate a severe gallbladder problem.
2. Referred Pain
Gallstone pain can cause referred pain to the upper back and right shoulder. The pain usually comes on suddenly and may last for several hours. Prescribed painkillers are used to relieve pain associated with gallstones. You may also be given advice about eating a healthy diet to help control the pain.
Jaundice is a symptom of gallstones. Jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes and skin due to high bilirubin levels. If a stone moves out of your gallbladder and one of your bile ducts and blocks the bile flow, jaundice occurs. Sometimes the gallstone passes from the bile duct on its own. If it doesn't, you may need to have gallbladder surgery.
A gallstone can cause nausea and vomiting, which may relieve some of the abdominal pressure and discomfort. Pain that occurs with appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, and a fever may suggest the presence of infection or inflammation of the gallbladder. Vomiting and diarrhea also occur with food poisoning and the flu, but the pain tends to come and go rather than be constant.
If you're experiencing the symptoms of a gallstone, you should notify your gastroenterologist right away. When a gallstone blocks your bile ducts, it can cause excruciating pain, which means you need emergency care right away.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.