Common Conditions Treated by Gastroenterologists


The gastroenterological tract and the digestive organs form a remarkably efficient system for the breakdown and absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste. Because this system is so complex, a wide variety of diseases and dysfunctions can impact its function. Below are the most common conditions treated by our accomplished gastroenterologists.

Colon Polyps

Colon polyps are growths that form on the inner of the colon, or large intestine. While most colon polyps are harmless, some can develop into colon cancer over time. That’s why it’s essential to have regular colonoscopies, as recommended by your doctor. During a colonoscopy, colon polyps are routinely removed and biopsied.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen or dilated veins in the rectum or anal canal. They can be internal or external. Internal hemorrhoids are usually painless but can cause bleeding.

Heartburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux, the backwash of stomach acid up into the esophagus, is something everyone experiences from time to time. We call that unpleasant sensation “heartburn.” However, having heartburn two or more times a week is a possible indicator of gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Other symptoms of GERD may include nausea or vomiting, bad breath, difficulty swallowing, throat irritation, hoarseness and even respiratory problems.

Peptic Ulcer Disease

A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the stomach or duodenum. Peptic ulcers occur when the lining of the digestive tract is damaged by stomach acid. Peptic ulcers are mostly caused by H. Pylori, bacteria that live in the stomach of infected people. The other common cause of peptic ulcers is the chronic use of pain relievers known as NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain may require a little diagnostic detective work. It isn’t always clear whether the source of abdominal pain is the digestive tract or is actually originating in the chest, back, or even the pelvis. For example, patients with heart attacks or pneumonia may experience pain in their upper abdomen rather than chest pain.

Constipation

Constipation is generally defined as passing fewer than three stools a week, having hard, lumpy stools that may be difficult to pass, and straining during bowel movements. Everybody experiences bouts of constipation, but when the condition lasts for more than a few weeks it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea refers to the passing of loose, watery stools, sometimes accompanied by belly pain. Diarrhea can be caused by bacteria or a virus, or from ingesting contaminated food. However, it can sometimes be a sign of another disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome. Severe cases of diarrhea may cause enough dehydration to require intravenous fluids.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS is a common condition that is still not well understood. Research suggests that IBS is a dysfunction involving the nerves and muscles that control bowel sensation and motility (the movement of food through the digestive system). IBS symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, and diarrhea and/or constipation.

Diverticulitis

Small pouches called diverticula sometimes develop in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract, usually in the large intestine. More common in people over the age of 40, diverticula don’t cause symptoms unless they become inflamed or infected. This is known as diverticulitis and can cause severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and changes in your bowel habits.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an immune reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This creates inflammation that damages the small intestine's lining and prevents the absorption of certain nutrients, notably calcium. While many people have no symptoms, others have diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Symptoms may also include fatigue, anemia, and osteoporosis due calcium malabsorption.

Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the large intestine (colon) and rectum. Symptoms develop over time and include rectal bleeding, bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and pain. Colonoscopies are especially important for people who have ulcerative colitis because the condition is a risk factor for colon cancer.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is a chronic immune disorder characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. Although Crohn’s disease usually occurs in the last part of the small intestine and the beginning of the colon, it can cause inflammation anywhere in the digestive track, from the mouth to the anus. Severe Crohn's disease can be painful and even debilitating.

Liver Diseases Including Hepatitis B and C

Traditionally, liver disease has fallen under the purview of gastroenterology, with the liver as an area of subspecialty. We have learned a lot about the liver in recent years, and hepatology, which focuses on the pancreas, gallbladder, and biliary tree, is a growing specialty. Our gastroenterologists treat a full range of liver diseases. Hepatitis A, B, and C are infectious diseases caused by three different viruses:

  • Hepatitis A is a short-term infection that usually clears up on its own.
  • Hepatitis B can present as a short-term acute infection, but sometimes develops into a serious long-term chronic illness.
  • Like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C can sometimes be a short-term infection, but it may also become a chronic condition. Symptoms of hepatitis are variable and include yellowing of the eyes, abdominal pain, and dark urine. In chronic hepatitis cases, people may experience liver failure, cancer, or cirrhosis.

Diseases of the Gallbladder and Bile Duct

Our gastroenterologists routinely treat all diseases of the gall bladder and bile duct. These include gall stones, inflammation of the gall bladder (Cholecystitis), blockage or inflammation of the bile ducts, biliary dyskinesia (low functioning gall bladder), polyps, and several cancers.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis–inflammation of the pancreas– can be acute or chronic. While pancreatitis is often related to excessive alcohol consumption or gallstones, there are other causes, including pancreatic cancer. The symptoms of acute pancreatitis include upper abdominal pain and back pain, a fever, nausea, vomiting, a rapid pulse, and abdominal tenderness. Chronic pancreatitis presents with upper abdominal pain, weight loss, and oily, smelly stools.

Gallstones

Gallstones are hardened pebble-like objects made of cholesterol or bilirubin (a fluid found in bile) that can develop in the gall bladder or bile ducts. Gallstones don’t necessarily cause symptoms. When they do, the symptoms include nausea and vomiting accompanied by rapidly intensifying pain in the center of the abdomen, just below the breastbone, between the shoulder blades, and in the right shoulder.