If you have issues with the digestive tract, you need to visit a gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is a specialist doctor who has a special interest and expertise in the diagnosis and management of diseases of the digestive system. The common conditions that may require gastroenterologist evaluation include
- Investigation of bleeding from the intestine.
- Severe and recurrent abdominal pain.
- Esophagitis, gastritis, peptic ulcer disease and duodenal ulceration: All these conditions involve a degree of erosion or ulceration of the lining of the digestive tract. These cause pain; classically a burning, gnawing pain that worsens after eating.
- Inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- Liver problems, such as hepatitis (inflammation of the liver from many different causes) and liver cirrhosis (scarring again from numerous possible causes).
- Malignancy (cancer) and benign (noncancerous) tumors of the digestive tract.
What is gastroenterology?
Gastroenterology is the medical specialty that deals with problems related to the digestive system (the esophagus, abdomen, small intestine, colon and rectum, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver). Doctors who specialize in gastroenterology are concerned with everything that happens after you swallow your food. They use tests, such as colonoscopies and endoscopies to examine the inner workings of the intestines, colon and abdomen. There may be abdominal pain and cramping when you go to the bathroom. However, if the pain is so severe that it interferes with your daily life or is difficult to manage, then it may be time to schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Here are a few other symptoms that may require a gastroenterologist’s consultation.
What procedures can a gastroenterologist do?
A gastroenterologist can perform various nonsurgical procedures, such as
- Endoscopy: This involves inserting an endoscope (a thin, flexible tube with a camera and a light source) through the mouth to look inside the gut. The procedure may be coupled with an ultrasound (endoscopic ultrasound) to further enhance the diagnostic potential of the procedure. Endoscopy helps examine the upper and lower gastrointestinal tract and other internal organs.
- Colonoscopy: This procedure involves the examination of the large bowel (colon and rectum) to diagnose conditions, such as inflammatory bowel diseases, colon polyps and colon cancer.
- Sigmoidoscopy: This is a procedure to examine the inside of the sigmoid colon (the last part of the colon that terminates at the rectum).
- Liver biopsy: This involves collecting a small tissue sample from a diseased area in the liver, which is sent to the lab for examination under a microscope.
Digestive disorders affect approximately one out of every five Americans. Digestive symptoms should not be ignored. Talk with your gastroenterologist if you are experiencing discomfort. People suffering from frequent digestive issues and not experiencing relief after using over-the-counter (OTC) medicines or getting treatment from a general physician need to visit a gastroenterologist immediately.
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GI Associates: "7 Signs You Need to See A GI Doctor." https://gi.md/resources/articles/signs-you-need-to-see-a-gi-doctor
American College of Gastroenterology: "What is a Gastroenterologist?" https://gi.org/patients/gi-health-and-disease/what-is-a-gastroenterologist/