Care and Treatment of Digestive Disorders
Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat diseases of the stomach, intestines and related organs, including the esophagus, stomach, liver and pancreas.
In recent years, cases of irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases have become increasingly common. St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center’s gastroenterology doctors are dedicated to the proper testing, diagnosis and care for GI disorders.
Gastrointestinal Issues We Treat
Care is available at St. Mary’s Gastroenterology for a wide range of gastrointestinal diseases, including:
Abdominal pain syndrome is usually characterized by frequent pain that affects daily activities. It’s commonly associated with a food allergy, an irritable bowel disease or infection.
Acid reflux or heartburn
Acid reflux occurs when stomach acids flow upward into the esophagus, causing burning and irritation. Acid reflux and heartburn that occurs more than twice a week could mean a GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) diagnosis.
Bloating or gas
Bloating is characterized by a feeling of fullness or pressure in your abdomen. Usually it’s caused by trapped gas and can cause the stomach to appear distended and feel painful. It doesn’t always indicate an underlying condition, but it can be associated with different GI disorders. Gas can also be caused by carbonated beverages, chewing gum, constipation or eating a big meal.
Blood in vomit or stool
Blood in your vomit or stool can be a serious issue and should be treated immediately. Blood in the vomit can indicate an issue with the upper part of the digestive system. Blood in the stool can indicate an issue with the lower digestive tract, such as hemorrhoids, ulcers or diverticulitis.
Constipation occurs when stool sits in the colon for a long period of time and can not be easily expelled. When someone has less than three bowel movements a week it could mean a few different things. Constipation could be due to lack of fiber, dehydration, lack of physical activity or medication.
Diarrhea is characterized by loose or watery stools. It can be caused by contaminated food, sickness or an irritable bowel disease.
Also known as dysphagia, difficulty swallowing can be cause for concern. In worst case scenarios, it can cause painful blockages in the esophagus. In milder cases, it can cause throat irritation.
Nausea is most often associated with viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) or food poisoning. An upset stomach isn’t always a cause for concern when looking at the context of the situation. Heavy alcohol consumption and something as simple as taking medication on an empty stomach can cause nausea.
Testing for Gastrointestinal Problems
Diagnosing your symptoms is the first step to obtaining successful treatment. A St. Mary’s gastroenterologist will likely review your medical history, conduct a physical exam and order lab tests.
GI screening is important for detection of digestive diseases and colon cancer. The most common screenings that gastrointestinal doctors perform are as follows:
Treating Acid Reflux Disease
Our gastroenterologists offer advanced treatment options to help reduce chronic heartburn and acid reflux disease. Acid reflux disease, which is also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), is a common condition.
When people eat, food passes from the throat to the stomach through the esophagus. After food has passed into the stomach, a muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) stops food from moving backward into the esophagus. If the LES doesn’t close completely, food, liquid and stomach acid can leak back into the esophagus. This is called reflux or gastroesophageal reflux, which can cause heartburn and even damage the esophagus.
A colonoscopy is a procedure used to look inside the large intestine and into the end of the small intestine. It enables the physician to examine the entire colon and rectum for polyps (small growths that can become cancerous over time).
During a colonoscopy, a thin, flexible tube with a small camera is gently eased into the colon by the physician. A small amount of air is puffed into the colon to keep it open and let the physician see clearly. The exam takes about 30 minutes.
Sometimes a doctor will perform sigmoidoscopy instead of a colonoscopy. In this procedure, a physician looks at the lower part of the colon and rectum for abnormalities. The scope is about two feet long, which is enough to view the rectum and part of the colon.
The physician uses a thin, flexible, hollow, lighted tube that has a tiny video camera on the end called a sigmoidoscope. The sigmoidoscope is gently eased inside the colon while the patient is under anesthesia, and sends pictures to a monitor. Small amounts of air are puffed into the colon to keep it open and let the physician see clearly.
If you’re experiencing upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or difficulty swallowing, your doctor may recommend upper endoscopy. An upper endoscopy enables the physician to examine the lining of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. This is the best test for finding the cause of bleeding from the upper GI tract.
Upper endoscopies are more accurate than X-ray films for detecting inflammation, ulcers and tumors of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. The physician uses a thin, flexible tube to view the images on a video monitor.
Ask A Physician About Gastroenterology Tests
Each of these gastroenterology procedures require specific preparation so that the process goes smoothly. Your GI doctor will ask you to prepare for a colonoscopy by going on a clear liquid diet. Bowel preparation is one of the most important parts of the procedure. It ensures clear imaging of the digestive system so that your doctor can better diagnose and treat if necessary.
Depending on the situation, a capsule endoscopy may be used. In a capsule endoscopy, a small wireless camera is used to take pictures of the digestive tract.
Colonoscopies, endoscopies and sigmoidoscopies are an essential part of healthcare and cancer screening, so they should be taken seriously. Ask your doctor for gastroenterology any questions you may have about these tests.