Articles GI Issues

Here's how to recognize the symptoms of digestive diseases and when you should see a doctor. Many people are embarrassed to talk about gastrointestinal issues, but it's common.

Do you have a digestive problem but don't know what it is? Here's an in-depth look at the most common conditions, their symptoms, and the best treatments available. GI Associates & Endoscopy Center can help you with any of these conditions.

Anal Fissure


Rectal fissures are tiny tears in the lining of your anus caused by straining during bowel movements or having soft stools. Symptoms include bleeding and pain after moving your bowels.

The best way to handle this common digestive issue is often a high-fiber diet that forms bulky, well-shaped stools. Medication can help relax the anal sphincter muscles relieving pain. Chronic fissures however, normally require surgery of the anal sphincter muscle. Additionally, topical anesthetics and sitz baths provide discomfort relief.

Celiac Disease


Did you know that about 1% of the American population has celiac disease? According to Beyond Celiac, this amounts to around 1 in 133 people. What's even more interesting is that the group estimates that more than 80% of those with celiac disease don't even know they have it! They may have been misdiagnosed with a completely different condition.

Celiac disease is an intense sensitivity to gluten, which many people eat regularly without knowing. It's a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Suppose you have celiac disease and consume gluten. In that case, your immune system will attack your villi- the fingerlike protrusions in your small intestines that help with nutrient absorption from foods eaten.

Celiac disease children may experience symptoms including abdominal pain/bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, and weight loss. However, adults can experience symptoms like anemia, fatigue, bone loss, depression, and seizures.

Celiac disease can only be managed by avoiding gluten altogether. Some gluten-free substitutes that work well are rice, lentils, quinoa, soy flour, and corn flour.

Crohn's Disease


Crohn's disease is a digestive condition that falls under the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) category. Crohn's affects any part of the gastrointestinal tract. However, it most commonly affects the terminal ileum. This section of the intestine connects the end of the small bowel to the beginning of the colon. According to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation, as many as 780,000 Americans may be affected.

The direct cause of Crohn's disease is unknown, but research suggests that genetics and family history plays a role.

Common symptoms Include:

  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • rectal bleeding
  • weight loss
  • fever

Diverticulitis


Diverticula are small pouches that can form where the're are weak areas in the digestive system lining. However, they are most typically found in the colon. The pouches become inflamed or infected in about 5 percent of people with diverticulosis.

Obesity is a primary risk factor for diverticulitis. Some symptoms are fever, chills, nausea, and abdominal pain.

If you have mild diverticulitis, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics and a clear liquid diet to heal your colon. A low-fiber diet is often the cause of diverticulitis, so part of your treatment may involve eating a high-fiber diet consisting of whole grains, legumes, vegetables, etc. If you experience severe attacks frequently, surgery to remove the diseased portion of your colon may be necessary.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)


Acid reflux can be triggered when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus. This condition may cause you to feel burning pain in the center of your chest, often after meals or at nighttime.

If you have symptoms that occur twice a week or won't go away quickly, you might have GERD. If you're experiencing chronic heartburn, foul breath, tooth decay, nausea, chest pain or upper abdomen difficulty swallowing, see a doctor right away.

There are several ways to find relief from GERD symptoms. Including avoiding trigger foods and beverages, taking over-the-counter antacids or other medication to reduce stomach acid production and inflammation of the esophagus, making changes to your lifestyle like head elevation in bed, not resting immediately after a meal, avoiding tight clothing, and smoking. However, in some cases, more assertive treatment, such as medication or surgery, may be necessary.

Gallstones


Gallstones form when there is too much cholesterol or waste in your bile; typically, one million Americans develop them annually. If not appropriately treated, gallstones can cause severe pain and digestive problems.

Gallstones can cause severe pain in your upper-right abdomen when they block the ducts from your gallbladder to your intestines. Surgery is usually the next step to remove the gallbladder if the medication doesn't dissolve the stones.

Hemorrhoids


Seeing bright red blood in the toilet after a bowel movement is often a sign of hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are prevalent, affecting about 75 percent of Americans over age 45, according to the NIDDK.

Hemorrhoids are painful and itchy inflammation of the blood vessels usually located at the end of your digestive tract. Causes include constipation, diarrhea, straining during bowel movements, and insufficient dietary fiber intake.

To treat hemorrhoids, fiber and water intake must be improved, and more exercise should be done. If over-the-counter creams or suppositories don't provide relief, see a doctor, sometimes surgery is the only answer.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome


If you're encountering abdominal pain or discomfort several times a month continually, it could be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a common digestive condition.

Although the root cause of IBS is unknown, managing symptoms primarily revolves around diet, consuming low-fat, high-fiber meals and balancing gas production by avoiding common trigger foods such as dairy products, alcohol, caffeine, etc.

Furthermore, certain helpful bacteria – like probiotics in live yogurt – can make you feel better. Stress is sometimes a trigger for IBS symptoms, so some people find that therapy or low-dose antidepressants alleviate their issues.

Ulcerative Colitis


Ulcerative colitis is the other type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). According to the CCFA, it may affect as many as 907,000 Americans. The symptoms of ulcerative colitis are alot alike to Crohn's with one key difference. Ulcerative colitis solely affects the large intestine (colon).

With an autoimmune disorder, the immune system mistakes food or other materials for invaders. This can lead to sores or ulcers in the lining of the colon. If you experience these symptoms, such as frequent or urgent bowel movements, diarrhea accompanied by pain, blood in your stool, or abdominal cramps, it's time to visit your doctor.

Medication can dampen the inflammation, and cutting out foods that trigger pain may also help. In more severe cases, treatment for ulcerative colitis may necessitate surgery to remove the colon.

Contact our gastroenterologist experts if you suffer from any of the conditions listed above. Our staff is dedicated to your Gastro health.

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