Our Gastroenterology Blog
Posts for category: GI Condition
What are the types of bowel changes?
Sure, we know that this is a bit embarrassing to discuss, but the frequency and appearance of your bowel movements can tell your gastroenterologist a lot about the health of your intestinal system, and it can also provide helpful clues to find out why you might be dealing with issues. A gastroenterologist will look at both the color and consistency of a stool sample.
The Color of the Stool
A healthy stool ranges in color from tan to dark brown. If the stool is white, red, clay-colored, or black this gives us a clue that something is wrong. Black or red stools can be signs of a bleed within the intestinal tract while clay-colored or pale stools are often signs of liver or gallbladder problems.
The Consistency of the Stool
Whether the stool is dry, hard, watery, or contains mucus, these are also factors that can help us determine what might be going on in your GI tract. Dry, hard stools may be caused by a poor, low-fiber diet and lack of water, while mucus in the stool could be an indicator of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), an intestinal infection, ulcerative colitis, or bowel obstruction. Your gastroenterologist must run the appropriate tests to rule out certain problems.
The Frequency of Your Bowel Habits
While there is a range of how frequently someone does have a bowel movement (ranging from 3 times a day to 3 times a week), if you don’t have a bowel movement for more than three days it’s time to see a doctor. Conversely, if you’re dealing with diarrhea for more than a day (or you notice blood, mucus, or pus in the stool) you should also give your gastroenterologist a call.
Abdominal pain or persistent bowel changes should have you scheduling an appointment with your gastroenterologist just to be on the safe side. While some changes might be minor, it’s important to pinpoint possible intestinal problems right away before they get worse.
While people can develop celiac disease at any age, it’s often hereditary (meaning that if you have a family member with this condition then you are more likely to develop the celiac disease yourself). Since this disease can lead to serious health problems such as infertility, anemia, and type 1 diabetes, it’s important to see a doctor if you suspect that you might have celiac disease.
The most common symptoms of Celiac disease involve digestive problems and may include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Abdominal pain
- Increased gas
- Nausea and vomiting
- Foul-smelling or pale stools (more common in children)
- An itchy, widespread rash
- Ulcers of the mouth
- Joint pain
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Headaches or migraines
- Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet
Treating Celiac Disease
If you are experiencing rectal pain or noticing specks of blood on your toilet paper you might be dealing with hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids, also referred to as piles, are swollen veins that form either inside or outside the rectum. While hemorrhoids are more common as a person gets older, this condition can happen to anyone. Here’s what you should know about this common rectal problem and how you can treat it.
What causes hemorrhoids?
If you have family members that deal with hemorrhoids, you may be more likely to get them too. Any kind of pressure that’s placed on the rectum and impacts the flow of blood can cause these veins to swell. Pressure may be caused by:
- Constipation and straining during bowel movements
- Heavy lifting or intense physical activity
- Being overweight or obese
- A poor diet that is low in fiber
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle
How are hemorrhoids diagnosed?
If you’ve never had hemorrhoids before you may want to see your gastroenterologist for a diagnosis, especially if you are experiencing persistent rectal bleeding. Your doctor will go through your medical history and ask questions about your symptoms before performing an exam. A simple rectal exam is usually all that’s needed to diagnose external hemorrhoids. In order to diagnose internal hemorrhoids, you may require further testing such as a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy.
How are hemorrhoids treated?
Sometimes hemorrhoids will go away on their own, so you won’t require special care or treatment. Home remedies include:
- Adding more fiber to your diet
- Avoiding straining during bowel movements
- Staying hydrated to aid in better digestion
- Taking a Sitz bath several times a day to ease any pain and discomfort
There are also over-the-counter medications that can alleviate symptoms including pain and itching. If your symptoms persist after using these medications you should talk with your doctor. If the hemorrhoid is large or isn’t responding to other treatment options then your GI doctor may recommend surgery. There are many minimally invasive surgical techniques that can be used to get rid of hemorrhoids.
If you notice rectal pain, bleeding or discomfort that leaves you concerned or worried about your health it’s important that you talk with your gastroenterologist to find out if you need further evaluation. While hemorrhoids may clear on their own, if you don’t experience relief a doctor will be able to help.
While we may not think about the liver very often, this organ plays a vital role in your digestive health and is responsible for some extremely important functions within the body. This digestive organ, which is also the largest organ within our body, is responsible for about 500 bodily functions designed to keep you healthy. The liver doesn’t just store important nutrients including iron but it also is responsible for detoxifying the body. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of diseases that can impact the health of the liver.
Types of Liver Disease
There are many diseases that can impact the health of the liver. These include:
- Infections such as hepatitis A, B and C
- Autoimmune disorders (e.g. autoimmune hepatitis; primary biliary cholangitis)
- Liver cancer
- Inherited diseases such as Wilson’s disease and hemochromatosis
- Other diseases and causes such as alcohol abuse or drugs (e.g. fatty liver disease)
Symptoms of Liver Disease
Unfortunately, many people with liver disease never even know that they have it. In fact, people may even have severe and permanent scarring (known as cirrhosis) and still never experience symptoms. With that said, there are certain signs and symptoms that may develop in those with liver disease. These signs include:
- Extreme fatigue and exhaustion
- Itchy skin
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin (e.g. jaundice)
- Pale stools
- Dark urine
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Confusion and brain fog
If you are experiencing these symptoms it’s important that you seek a gastroenterologist for further evaluation.
Treating Liver Disease
The type and severity of your liver disease will play a primary role in creating your treatment plan. One of the major areas that we will look at is your lifestyle. Lifestyle modifications can greatly improve certain types of liver disease. Lifestyle modifications include:
- Avoiding alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting moderate exercise 3-4 times a week
- Avoiding red meat, sugar and processed carbs
- Losing excess weight if obese or overweight
Making changes to your diet and lifestyle can minimize damage to the liver and also help those with liver diseases caused by medications or alcohol dependency. In more severe cases, a liver transplant may be necessary for those with advanced stages of cirrhosis. There are certain prescription medications that are prescribed to cure certain chronic forms of hepatitis; however, most cases of hepatitis A and B do not require treatment. Antiviral medications are used to treat hepatitis C.
If you are noticing warning signs or symptoms of liver disease, or if you have questions about keeping your liver healthy, a gastroenterologist can answer your questions and provide you with the care and treatment you need if you do have liver disease.
When people experience frequent bouts of flatulence, abdominal bloating, cramps, and diarrhea, it's disconcerting and sometimes unpredictable. Your gastroenterologist may review your symptoms and do some in-office testing to determine if you have lactose intolerance. It's a common GI condition in which the body produces the lactase enzyme in insufficient amounts. Fortunately, the teens and adults who develop it can manage the symptoms and feel good.
The details on lactose intolerance
The digestive enzyme, lactase, is produced in the small intestine. When it encounters lactose, the carbohydrate in dairy products such as milk and ice cream, it breaks down the sugar into a highly usable form. If, however, lactase is insufficient, the milk sugars will cause those uncomfortable GI symptoms within a half an hour or so.
While cheese and yogurt also are dairy products, they go through a fermentation process which limits their lactose content. As such, people who are lactose intolerant can consume these dairy items comfortably, says Genetics Home Reference.
Besides happening in young adulthood, lactose intolerance seems to run in families, particularly if as infants, individuals appeared unable to digest breast milk or formula properly. Additionally, some research shows this gastrointestinal problem may occur after an abdominal injury, reports John Hopkins Medicine.
Diagnosing and managing lactose intolerance
Your gastroenterologist will review your symptoms, their severity and timing. Also, he or she may run a lactose intolerance test in which you consume a liquid with high levels of lactose. Through the course of two hours, the doctor measures your blood sugar levels. High readings indicate lactose intolerance.
In addition, a hydrogen breath test pinpoints lactose intolerance. For babies and young children, a stool acidity test uncovers this common GI disorder.
To manage lactose intolerance, your doctor will recommend some diet modifications, such as eliminating as much dairy as possible. Checking food labels for dairy content helps, as well as switching to almond or soy milk and taking supplements such as Lactaid which boost lactase levels in the gut.
See your gastroenterologist
Your GI doctor wants you to have healthy digestion and a varied diet. Be sure to see him or her right away if you experience symptoms of lactose intolerance so you can feel your very best.
Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a condition affecting the large intestine or colon. It is associated with a variety of symptoms, including abdominal discomfort and diarrhea. The exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is not known and the condition tends to affect women more often than men. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, a gastroenterologist can determine if you truly have the condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan for your symptoms.
A variety of gastrointestinal symptoms is associated with irritable bowel syndrome. If you experience any of these symptoms regularly, consult a gastroenterologist who can make a proper diagnosis. A diagnosis of IBS is usually made by ruling out other gastrointestinal problems through blood tests, stool sample tests, x-rays, a colonoscopy or a sigmoidoscopy. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include:
- abdominal pain or cramping
- mucus in stools
- recurring urgent need to have a bowel movement
Although the exact cause of irritable bowel syndrome is unknown, there are several treatment options for alleviating some of the discomfort associated with IBS. Dietary habits can have an impact on the frequency and severity of symptoms. Eating smaller meals during the day can ease digestion and lessen symptoms. Including more fiber during the day can also help with symptoms such as constipation. Eliminating foods, such as dairy, that aggravate the symptoms of IBS can also help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort.
Other strategies for treating irritable bowel syndrome include medications, probiotics and managing stress. Increased stress can aggravate IBS symptoms so keeping stress levels low can minimize symptoms. Additionally, probiotics and certain medications can also help improve digestion and alleviate some of the symptoms of IBS, such as gas or diarrhea. A gastroenterologist can help you determine which treatments options are best for your symptoms.
Irritable bowel syndrome can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
A polyp: you may have heard of this condition, but remain unsure on what exactly it is. Most commonly developed in the colon, polyps are small clumps of cells that grow inside various parts of the body. Although some polyps are benign, others can develop into cancer, making it crucial that you receive periodic colonoscopies from your gastroloenterologist. Read on to learn more about colon polyps, and if you are in need of a colonoscopy, make sure to call your local gastroenterologist to make an appointment!
What exactly are colon polyps?
As mentioned above, polyps are small clumps of cells that generally develop in the nasal passage, uterine lining, vocals cords, stomach lining, and most commonly in the colon lining. Projected to develop in fifty percent of the population over time, colon polyps come in two distinct categories:
- Hyperplastic Polyps: Definitively noncancerous, these benign cell clumps are small and grow near the end of the colon
- Adenomatous Polyps: This polyp variety affects more people than its counterpart, and carries the possibility of becoming cancerous, although this development usually takes years to occur.
Although colon polyps generally do not show any immediate symptoms, some warning signs certainly do spring up over time. These signs include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Abnormal stool color
- Shifts in bowel habits
- Abdominal pain
How can I stay healthy?
Given that polyps usually do not exhibit any symptoms until late into their development, the best course of defense against this potentially deadly condition is to receive regular colonoscopies once you reach the age of 50.
A colonoscopy is a minor procedure in which a small, camera-equipped tool is inserted into the anus so that a doctor may examine the colon. If any polyps are discovered, the doctor can then remove them and send a sample to the lab for a biopsy. In the event that the sample tests positive for cancer, your doctor can discuss any further steps that need to be taken.
Concerned? Give us a call!
If you are in need of a colonoscopy, be sure to give your local gastroenterologist a call and receive the treatment that you need!
Though many people never know they have one due to lack of symptoms, a hiatal hernia can cause complications which can affect your daily life. Knowing the signs and symptoms of this condition can help you spot its presence, alert your gastroenterologist, and get the treatment you need.
What is a hiatal hernia?
Your chest and abdomen are separated by a large muscle called the diaphragm. The esophagus passes through a small opening in the diaphragm and brings food from the mouth, down the throat, and into the stomach. A hiatal hernia occurs when the stomach pushes through the hole and begins bulging out of the other side, into the chest. Though small hiatal hernias are often nothing to worry about and do not produce symptoms, larger hernias may cause potentially serious complications.
Do I have a hiatal hernia?
A small hernia often does not produce any symptoms at all. However, larger hernias can cause some issues that can affect your day-to-day life:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chest or abdominal pain
- Regurgitation of foods (into the mouth)
- Acid reflux
- Vomiting blood or passing black stool
- Shortness of breath
If you think you have a hiatal hernia, you should see your doctor to ensure that you receive the care you need.
How does a gastroenterologist diagnose a hiatal hernia?
It is not uncommon for a gastroenterologist to find a hernia while investigating the cause of heartburn, abdominal pain, or other symptoms. Some diagnostic tools they may use include x-rays or upper endoscopy. They will also gather your medical, family, and lifestyle history to further investigate the cause of your symptoms.
Hiatal Hernia Treatments
If a person with a hernia does not experience any symptoms or complications, they may not need any treatment at all. However, if the patient begins experiencing discomfort, their doctor will probably suggest beginning treatment for their condition. Medications, such as antacids or medication to reduce the body’s acid production, can help with symptoms of a hernia. In more severe cases, a surgical procedure to repair a hernia or make the hole in the diaphragm smaller may become necessary.
Your gastroenterologist can help you find the best treatment plan for you. If you think you have a hernia or are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms such as recurrent acid reflux or heartburn, you should speak with your doctor.
Tummy troubles? When some people are diagnosed with celiac disease, they also discover that they are lactose intolerant and have difficulty digesting milk and dairy products. Read on to learn all about lactose intolerance and celiac disease and their symptoms. Gastroenterologists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders, including lactose intolerance and celiac disease.
Lactose Intolerance Overview
Lactose intolerance is a condition in which people have digestive symptoms after eating or drinking milk or dairy products. People with lactose intolerance are unable to fully digest the sugar in dairy products. Lactose intolerance is caused by a deficiency of an enzyme in the body called lactase. Lactose intolerance is not serious. Your doctor may do a breath, blood or stool test to find out if your problems are due to lactose intolerance.
Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance
After drinking or eating dairy products, you may feel sick to your stomach. You may also have loose stools or diarrhea, gas, pain, or cramps in the lower belly, rumbling or gurgling sounds in the lower belly. or swelling in your stomach. If you are lactose intolerant, you may still be able to eat or drink small amounts of milk. Some individuals do better if they have dairy with a meal.
Celiac Disease Overview
Celiac disease is a disorder triggered by consuming a protein called gluten, which is rye, barley, and wheat. When an individual with celiac disease eats foods that contain gluten, an abnormal immune reaction is triggered that damages a small part of the intestine called villi. Long-term complications of celiac disease include intestinal cancer, liver disease, and malnutrition, which can lead to osteoporosis and anemia. The longer people go untreated, the greater the risk for long-term complications.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease
Many individuals with celiac disease have no symptoms. Digestive symptoms, including stomach bloating, flatulence, pain, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, and irritability are more common in children. Adults may experience numbness in hands and feet, joint or bone pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression, canker sores inside the mouth, seizures, itching, and a skin rash.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of lactose intolerance or celiac disease, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. Get your life back on track by receiving the best treatment available. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring all the relief you need, with little hassle or expense.
Wondering if you have hemorrhoids? Hemorrhoids are very common, especially among people ages 45 to 75. Hemorrhoids are inflamed and swollen veins around the anus or in the lower rectum. One of the main causes of hemorrhoids is straining when you’re trying to have a bowel movement. Other contributing factors include heredity, diarrhea, chronic constipation, pregnancy, and aging. Here's how to tell if you have hemorrhoids.
1. A lump near the anus- Although many individuals have hemorrhoids, not all experience symptoms. External hemorrhoids are felt as swelling or a hard lump near the anal area. Internal hemorrhoids protrude with bowel movements; usually, they return to the inside by themselves.
2. Painless bleeding- Hemorrhoids can cause bleeding. If you have hemorrhoids, you may see blood in the toilet bowl or on the toilet paper. Rectal bleeding is also a symptom of diverticulitis, colitis, colon polyps, and colorectal cancer. If you experience rectal bleeding, you should see a doctor. An evaluation and proper diagnosis by a gastroenterologist is important any time bleeding from the rectum lasts for more than a few days.
3. Itching around the anus- Hemorrhoids can cause severe itching around the anus. Initial treatment of anal itching is directed toward relieving the soreness and burning. Your gastroenterologist may prescribe hydrocortisone cream, gel, foam, or ointment or rectal suppositories to treat itching.
4. Pain or discomfort- Pain is a common symptom of external hemorrhoids, especially during bowel movements or when sitting. Internal hemorrhoids are typically painless, even when they produce bleeding. When hemorrhoids are painful, it’s hard to think about anything else. Your gastroenterologist may prescribe pain medication, hydrocortisone cream or rectal suppositories to ease your pain.
Why suffer? If you think you may have hemorrhoids, you should schedule an appointment with a gerontologist right away. The symptoms hemorrhoids cause are hard to ignore. Thankfully, there are many treatments that can provide relief.
Diverticulitis is a condition in which small pouches or sacs called diverticula form in the large intestine, or colon, and become inflamed. When the sacs are inflamed, they can bulge outward and cause abdominal pain and discomfort. In addition to abdominal pain, several other symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with this condition, see a gastroenterologist for a diagnosis and possible treatment options.
Symptoms & Causes
The exact cause of diverticulitis is unclear. However, there seems to be a link between a diet too low in fiber and the development of diverticulitis. When fiber is lacking in the diet, the colon works harder to move stools through the intestinal tract. It is possible that the pressure from the increased effort to move the stool can lead to the formation of diverticula along the interior of the color or large intestine. Maintaining a diet with sufficient fiber intake can potentially help prevent diverticulitis.
Various symptoms can be associated with diverticulitis. Abdominal pain is a common symptom and tends to be felt primarily on the left side. Other symptoms associated with diverticulitis include:
- abdominal pain
A variety of options are available for treating diverticulitis. For less severe cases, a combination of antibiotics, pain relievers and a liquid diet can be sufficient to resolve the diverticulitis. More serious cases of diverticulitis in which patients cannot drink liquids can require a hospital stay. While in the hospital, all nutrition will be obtained intravenously. Avoiding eating and drinking by mouth gives the bowel time to rest and recover and can help clear up the diverticulitis. If the condition is still severe, surgery might be required.
Diverticulitis can result in a lot of pain and discomfort. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief. See a gastroenterologist for diagnosis and a treatment plan.
Many people develop hemorrhoids at some point, particularly between the ages of 45-65. Hemorrhoids are typically associated with pain, discomfort, itching and irritation around the anus. They can also result in pain and discomfort during bowel movements. As uncomfortable as hemorrhoids can be, there are treatments that can help. See a gastroenterologist if you suspect you might have hemorrhoids. If a gastroenterologist determines you do have hemorrhoids, an appropriate treatment can be prescribed to ease the pain and discomfort.
The exact cause of hemorrhoids is not necessarily known, but several factors or conditions do seem to increase the likelihood of development hemorrhoids. Factors associated with an increased risk for development hemorrhoids include:
- Family history of hemorrhoids
- Chronic constipation
- Sitting for extended periods
- Straining during bowel movements
Hemorrhoids often go away on their own, even without treatment. However, there are various options to ease the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids. A gastroenterologist might recommend a variety of methods for easing the pain at home. These include taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and fiber supplements for softening stools. Other things that can help provide relief include soaking in a warm bath and applying a cold compress to the anus to reduce swelling.
In addition to at home remedies for alleviating the pain and discomfort of hemorrhoids, there are medical procedures a gastroenterologist can perform to reduce the size of the hemorrhoids. Two popular procedures for treating hemorrhoids include a rubber band ligation and injection therapy. These procedures can be performed if other treatments and remedies have not provided substantial relief.
When struggling with hemorrhoids, the itching, irritation, pain and discomfort can interfere with your quality of life. Fortunately, there are treatments that can provide relief and even reduce the size of the hemorrhoids. See a gastroenterologist for the treatment of your hemorrhoids.
Acute pancreatitis strikes suddenly, causing severe pain and vomiting. More than 300,000 people are admitted to U.S. hospitals every year due to acute pancreatitis, according to The National Pancreas Foundation.
What causes acute pancreatitis?
If you have gallstones, you may be at increased risk of developing acute pancreatitis. The condition can occur when stones get stuck in the common bile duct and prevent pancreatic fluids from flowing freely. Stones can also force bile to flow back into the pancreas, which may damage it.
You may also develop acute pancreatitis if your calcium or triglyceride levels are very high, or you have an autoimmune disorder, infection, an overactive parathyroid gland, cystic fibrosis or regularly take certain medications. High alcohol consumption can cause pancreatitis, particularly if you've been a heavy drinker for years. In some cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis can't be determined.
What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?
Pain from acute pancreatitis is felt in the upper part of the abdomen, although it can extend to your back. The pain may be mild at first, but may become severe and constant and may worsen after you eat or drink alcohol. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rapid pulse. Prompt treatment is essential if you experience any of these symptoms. The condition can cause bleeding, infections and may even damage your kidneys, lungs and heart if the attack is severe. Although most people recover from acute pancreatitis, the condition can be life-threatening.
How is acute pancreatitis treated?
If your condition is caused by gallstones, you'll need surgery to remove the stones. In some cases, surgery may also be needed to keep your bile ducts open. If you're admitted to the hospital, you'll be given fluids to prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea and may receive medication for nausea and pain. Foods and beverages are usually stopped for one to two days after you're admitted to the hospital.
Changing your medications, avoiding alcohol and addressing the causes of high triglyceride or calcium levels may help prevent further bouts of acute pancreatitis. If you have numerous attacks of acute pancreatitis or continue to drink alcohol, the condition can become chronic.
Although it's not always possible to prevent acute pancreatitis, you can reduce your risk by exercising regularly, following a healthy diet and avoiding heavy consumption of alcohol.