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.
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.
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!
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.
Welcome to the Blog of Digestive Disease Associates of York County
Digestive Disease Associates of York County would like to welcome you to our blog. Here you will find informative and useful postings about gastroenterology and our practice.
At Digestive Disease Associates of York County we believe that educated patients are better prepared to make decisions regarding the health of their digestive system. Our blog was designed to provide you with the latest gastroenterology developments and valuable health advice from our dedicated team.
Digestive Disease Associates of York County hopes you find our blog to be a great resource for keeping up to date with proper digestive health care and treatments.
We welcome all comments and questions.
-- Digestive Disease Associates of York County
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