What does a gastroenterologist do and how do you know when it's time to see a gastro doctor? A gastroenterologist is an expert in digestive health and issues related to the stomach, intestines, and bowels, but also includes a number of other organs related to the entire digestive tract.
A lot happens between the time food enters your mouth until it is excreted from your body as waste. Your liver, pancreas, esophagus, and stomach all play a role in the digestive process. Sometimes changes in your digestion may be a minor response to new foods, medications, or stressful situations. Certain symptoms may indicate something more serious that needs to be checked out. How do you know when to see a GI doctor and when to let symptoms pass?
It’s always a good idea to get any new symptoms evaluated. Some require faster attention than others. The symptoms below require immediate attention from a GI specialist. Here are 7 signs you need to see a gastroenterologist:
A Lump in Your Throat
Almost everyone has had a sore throat and difficulty swallowing at some time. When there’s a lump that isn’t accompanied by flu or cold symptoms, it could be a digestive problem. If there is pain or you have problems swallowing liquids, schedule an appointment with a gastroenterologist. It could be a sign of something serious including esophageal cancer. Keep notes describing the appearance of the problem and any other symptoms that accompany it. The GI doctor will use all of this information to make an accurate diagnosis.
Blood in Your Stool
Nothing is more frightening than seeing blood in your stool after a bowel movement. Bright red blood that appears on toilet paper isn’t as big a worry as black stools. Fresh red blood might be from hemorrhoids. Post-menopausal women can also experience bleeding from thinning tissue. When the blood takes on a black appearance, it is more likely a signal that something is going on deeper in your digestive system.
If you have recurrent symptoms of rectal bleeding, experience other associated symptoms, or are 40 years or older, you need to be evaluated. Tell your gastroenterologist all of the symptoms you’ve experienced and how often they occur.
Hemorrhoids are not life-threatening, but they can make life miserable for some people. While most hemorrhoids occur on the outside of the anus and are fairly easy to treat, internal hemorrhoids can be more challenging. GI specialists sometimes treat internal hemorrhoids during colonoscopy procedures.
Unexplained Weight Loss
Many of us dream of losing weight without effort. Unfortunately, when unexplained weight loss becomes a reality, it’s often a sign of health problems. There are other conditions that could cause you to start dropping weight, but conditions like Crohn’s disease and celiac disease make a visit to the GI doctor a good place to start. They can also rule out more serious conditions like pancreatic, stomach, or colon cancer.
Everyone experiences gas, but when it occurs with other side effects, it could be a health concern. There may be reasons for concern if the gas is especially foul-smelling or you have abdominal discomfort, unexplained weight loss, or have a change in bowel habits (diarrhea and/or constipation).
Your Clothes Are Too Tight
Most of us can tell if we’ve picked up a few pounds. Your clothes might not feel as loose and comfortable as normal. When a change in fit happens suddenly, it’s probably bloating instead of weight gain. By itself, bloating might not be a problem. When you have other symptoms like abdominal pain or bloody stool, then you need to see your gastroenterologist. Food allergies, reflux, and gallstones are just some of the possible causes. It's best to have your symptoms checked out by a gastroenterologist to rule out serious conditions and get treatment to help alleviate your symptoms.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, leads to heartburn and sometimes makes it uncomfortable to enjoy some of your favorite foods. When heartburn lasts more than a few weeks, you need to see a GI doctor. Often, the doctor will use endoscopy to examine the upper digestive tract and find the source of your discomfort. Another reason to see a GI specialist is for regular screenings of the gastrointestinal tract.
When To See A Gastroenterologist
Gastroenterologists have an in-depth knowledge of the entire digestive tract and the conditions and diseases that impact it. The physicians at GI Associates are board-certified in gastroenterology, having accumulated at least six years of training after medical school. They have been trained at some of the finest, most prestigious universities in the United States, and this diversity allows our physician to have quick access to multiple sources of expertise, high-level consultations and opinions without having to leave central Mississippi. Don’t be embarrassed about having your symptoms evaluated. Contact GI associates to schedule your appointment today.