Expert care in digestive health

Top 30 Reasons to See a Gastroenterologist

Our digestive system is made up of multiple organs including our esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, gall bladder, liver and pancreas. All these organs need to work together properly to keep us healthy. At our gastroenterology office, we see anything related to gastrointestinal system. These are the top reasons why you may need to see Dr Kethu, a gastroenterologist in Richardson, TX.

 

1. Colon cancer screening

Colon cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the US. Both men and women are at risk of having colon cancer. A person with an average risk of colorectal cancer has about a 5% chance of developing colorectal cancer overall. So, colon cancer screening is recommended for anyone above 50 years of age and if you are African American, it is recommended at age 45, due to increased risk. Colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer is one of the most common procedures performed by gastroenterologists.

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2. GERD

Heartburn is a painful burning feeling in your chest or throat. It happens when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. If you have heartburn more than twice a week, you may have GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). But you can have GERD without having heartburn. GERD affects about 20 percent of the U.S. population. Treating heartburn is important because over time reflux can damage the esophagus.

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3. Abdominal pain

The abdominal pain is the pain that is described as coming from the abdomen or the abdominal wall. Although, having abdominal pain is abnormal, it is not always serious or a medical emergency. There are many reasons for abdominal pain. Gastroenterologists will be able to evaluate you to find out the cause of your abdominal pain.

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4. IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a group of symptoms that occur together, including abdominal pain with either diarrhea or constipation or both, and bloating. This is a “functional disorder” which means there is no visible damage to the digestive system but a disorder of brain-gut axis where there is a problem with how your brain and your gut work together. These problems can cause your gut to be more sensitive and change how the muscles in your bowel contract. Women are two times more likely than men to develop IBS.

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5. Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and irritation in your digestive tract. Most commonly, Crohn’s affects your small intestine and the beginning of your large intestine. More than half a million people in the United States have Crohn’s disease. Studies show that, over time, Crohn’s disease has become more common in the United States and other parts of the world. Most patients with Crohn’s disease receive their medical care from a gastroenterologist.

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6. Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is another type inflammatory bowel disease but unlike Crohn’s disease, it affects only the colon. UC affects 1-2 million people in the US. Most people with UC are under the care of gastroenterologists.

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7. Gallbladder Problems

The gallbladder is a small pouch that is right next to the liver and it stores bile. Bile is a green-yellow digestive fluid produced by the liver. Gallstones are by far the most common gallbladder problem that is seen by gastroenterologists. Gallstones occur in up to 20% of American women by the age of 60. Women between the ages of 20 and 60 years are three times more likely to develop gallstones than men.

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8. Rectal bleeding

Rectal bleeding is when blood passes from the rectum or anus. Bleeding may be noted on the stool or seen as blood on toilet paper or in the toilet. If the bleeding is bright red blood, most often it is caused by hemorrhoids or fissure. You may still need to see a gastroenterologist to make sure that it is not due to a more serious cause like colon cancer.

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9. Diarrhea

You have diarrhea if you have loose stools three or more times in one day. Acute diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts a short time. It is a common problem and may go away on its own. If it does not, you may need to see your primary care provider to have it checked. Diarrhea lasting more than a few days may be a sign of a more serious problem. Chronic diarrhea — diarrhea that lasts at least four weeks — can be a symptom of a chronic disease and needs to be evaluated by a gastroenterologist.

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10. Constipation

Constipation is when you are having 3 or fewer bowel movements a week. Occasional or chronic mild constipation is a very common problem and can be managed with over the counter laxatives. But if you have severe constipation that is not responding to over the counter laxatives or if you have a sudden change in bowel habits, then you need evaluation by a gastroenterologist.

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11. Indigestion (Dyspepsia)

Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or upset stomach, is a general term that describes a group of digestive symptoms that may include pain or burning feeling or discomfort in your upper abdomen, feeling full too soon while eating a meal, feeling uncomfortably full after eating a meal. Indigestion is a common condition, affecting about 1 in 4 people in the United States each year. Chronic indigestion without a health problem or digestive tract disease that could explain symptoms is called functional dyspepsia. Although 3 out of 4 people who are evaluated for dyspepsia turn out to have functional dyspepsia, you may still need a gastroenterology evaluation to rule out peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, stomach cancer, etc.

12. Difficulty swallowing (Dysphagia)

Dysphagia is problem swallowing solids or liquids or both. Dysphagia can be sometimes as a result of neurological condition such as brain stroke or Parkinson’s disease. There are several digestive causes such as acid reflux, esophageal cancer, esophageal motility disorders that need gastroenterology evaluation.

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13. Nausea or vomiting

Vomiting is generally a protective mechanism to remove harmful ingested substances from your body. Vomiting can also occur from many unrelated infectious and inflammatory conditions in the body. Although vomiting can be caused by many causes from medications to psychiatric conditions, if you have nausea and vomiting that lasts more than 2-3 days, you need to be evaluated by a physician. Gastroenterologists often see patients who have chronic, persistent nausea and vomiting.

14. Helicobacter pylori infection

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria that causes infection in the stomach. It is the main cause of peptic ulcers, and it can also cause gastritis and stomach cancer. About 30 to 40 percent of people in the United States get an H. pylori infection.

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15. Non-cardiac chest pain

Non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP) is a term used to describe chest pain that resembles heart pain in patients who do not have heart disease. Several studies have shown that approximately 60% or more of patients with NCCP suffer from acid reflux. Other common causes of non-cardiac chest pain are due to abnormal contractions of esophagus, hypersensitivity of the esophagus, musculoskeletal pain.

16. Celiac disease

Celiac disease (CD) is a chronic digestive condition where patients have inflammation of the small intestine due to reaction to gluten, a food protein found in foods like wheat, rye and barley. Celiac disease can be very serious. The disease can cause long-lasting digestive problems and keep your body from getting all the nutrients it needs. Celiac disease can also affect the body outside the intestine. It is estimated that up to one in 141 Americans has celiac disease, although most don’t know it.

17. Jaundice

Jaundice is when your eyes and skin turn yellow. This is caused by liver problem where liver cannot process the break down products of red blood cells causing bilirubin (a yellow chemical in hemoglobin) to accumulate. Jaundice can be caused by medications, infection (like hepatitis), alcoholic liver disease, blockage of bile ducts (for example, pancreatic cancer, gallstones), etc. Most adults who have jaundice are referred to a gastroenterologist for evaluation.

18. Abnormal liver enzymes

Finding of abnormal liver enzymes when you have a routine blood tests by your primary care provider is a common problem. Mild elevation of liver enzymes is often temporary and may not be serious. But if they are 2-3 times upper limits of normal range, you may need to see a gastroenterologist to find out if it is caused by infection like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, auto immune hepatitis, hemochromatosis, etc.

19. Diverticulitis

Diverticula are small pouches that bulge outward through the colon and if you have these pouches, you have a condition called diverticulosis. It becomes more common as people age. About half of all people over age 60 have it. If the pouches become inflamed or infected, you have a condition called diverticulitis. The most common symptom is abdominal pain, usually on the left side. You may also have fever, nausea, vomiting, chills, cramping, and constipation.

20. Pancreatitis

Pancreas is a gland behind your stomach and in front of your spine. It produces digestive juices that help break down food and hormones that help control blood sugar levels. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. It happens when digestive enzymes start digesting the pancreas itself. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic. Either form is serious and can lead to complications.

21. Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is inflammation of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B spreads by contact with an infected person’s blood or body fluid. An infected woman can give hepatitis B to her baby at birth. Approximately 850,000 to 2.2 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis B. Asian Americans and African Americans have higher rates of chronic hepatitis B. Although currently there is no cure for Hepatitis B, you should see a gastroenterologist to determine if you are a candidate for anti-viral medications to prevent complications like cirrhosis and liver cancer.

22. Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C inflammation of the liver caused by Hepatitis C virus. About 2.7 million to 3.9 million people in the United States have chronic hepatitis C. Many people who have hepatitis C don’t have symptoms and don’t know they have this infection. About 75 percent of U.S. adults who have hepatitis C are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965. The good news is that there is a cure for Hepatitis C now! See a gastroenterologist to find out if you are a candidate for one of the newer drugs that can cure hepatitis C.

23. Gas or bloating

The most common gas symptoms include burping, passing gas, bloating, and pain or discomfort in your abdomen. If these symptoms are severe or if there is sudden change or if you have other associated symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, etc., then you may need to see a gastroenterologist.

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24. Gastric or duodenal ulcers

A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of your stomach or duodenum. Most often these ulcers are caused by H pylori infection or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Gastroenterologists often diagnose ulcers when patients are evaluated for abdominal pain, bleeding, anemia, etc. Peptic ulcers can sometimes cause serious complications like severe bleeding, perforation (hole in the lining), obstruction (blockage).

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25. Barrett’s esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition in which tissue that is similar to the lining of your intestine replaces the tissue lining your esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous condition and very rarely can lead to esophageal cancer. So, if you have this condition, you need to see gastroenterologist for closer monitoring and treatment of Barrett’s esophagus.

26. Cirrhosis of the liver

Cirrhosis is a condition in which your liver is scarred and permanently damaged. Scar tissue replaces healthy liver tissue and prevents your liver from working normally. Cirrhosis is commonly caused by alcohol, hepatitis C, fatty liver, etc. About 1 in 400 adults in the United States has cirrhosis.

27. Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen and inflamed veins around your anus or in your lower rectum. About half of adults older than age 50 have hemorrhoids. If your hemorrhoids start causing significant symptoms like bleeding, pain, etc., you may need to see a gastroenterologist for the treatment of hemorrhoids.

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28. Fatty liver/NASH

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which excess fat is stored in your liver. Two types of NAFLD are simple fatty liver and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). NASH is a form of NAFLD in which you have hepatitis—inflammation of the liver—and liver cell damage, in addition to fat in your liver. Inflammation and liver cell damage can cause fibrosis, or scarring, may also lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. If you are found to have fatty liver and if you also have abnormally high liver enzymes, you may need to see a gastroenterologist.

29. Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis, also called delayed gastric emptying, is a disorder that slows or stops the movement of food from your stomach to your small intestine. Gastroparesis is often caused by diabetes. Gastroparesis can be a very debilitating condition causing chronic vomiting, abdominal pain, malnutrition, dehydration, etc.

30. Unexplained weight loss

Unexplained weight loss is a decrease in body weight, when you did not try to lose the weight on your own. The weight loss can be due to lack of appetite, medications, cancer, thyroid problems, anxiety or depression, chronic infection or chronic disease like kidney or lung disease. There are several digestive conditions that can cause weight loss including swallowing problems, malabsorption, severe diarrhea, parasites, chronic inflammation of the pancreas, etc. See your primary care provider to find out if you need a gastroenterologist referral.

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