Our Gastroenterology Blog
By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
September 14, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Gallstones  

Gallstones are a very common problem. You're at risk of developing gallstones if you're overweight or obese, female, or 40 or over. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile inside the gallbladder. Many people with gallstones are unaware that they have them, as they produce no or little symptoms. For some people, however, gallstones can cause problems. Here are four signs and symptoms of a gallstone. 

1. Abdominal Pain

Symptoms of a gallstone may include severe abdominal pain. This pain goes and comes back repeatedly. The pain often occurs after eating and can last a few hours before it resolves. Chronic, ongoing pain that persists beyond a few hours may also occur, and may indicate a severe gallbladder problem.

2. Referred Pain

Gallstone pain can cause referred pain to the upper back and right shoulder. The pain usually comes on suddenly and may last for several hours. Prescribed painkillers are used to relieve pain associated with gallstones. You may also be given advice about eating a healthy diet to help control the pain.

3. Jaundice

Jaundice is a symptom of gallstones. Jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes and skin due to high bilirubin levels. If a stone moves out of your gallbladder and one of your bile ducts and blocks the bile flow, jaundice occurs. Sometimes the gallstone passes from the bile duct on its own. If it doesn't, you may need to have gallbladder surgery.

4. Vomiting

A gallstone can cause nausea and vomiting, which may relieve some of the abdominal pressure and discomfort. Pain that occurs with appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, and a fever may suggest the presence of infection or inflammation of the gallbladder. Vomiting and diarrhea also occur with food poisoning and the flu, but the pain tends to come and go rather than be constant.

If you're experiencing the symptoms of a gallstone, you should notify your gastroenterologist right away. When a gallstone blocks your bile ducts, it can cause excruciating pain, which means you need emergency care right away.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
August 29, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Diarrhea  

Diarrhea is very common. When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements are loose and watery. In most cases, diarrhea lasts a couple of days. Chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts longer than two weeks. When diarrhea lasts for weeks, it can indicate a serious disorder. Although diarrhea is usually not serious, it can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. Read on to find out how chronic diarrhea is treated.

1. Replacing lost fluids- Chronic diarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Adults with diarrhea should drink water, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, or fruit juices. Fluid can also be delivered through a vein (intravenously) if the dehydration is severe. 

2. The use of medication- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and medications that target parasites to treat parasitic or bacterial infections. If a virus is causing your diarrhea, antibiotics won't help. Pain relief medications can help alleviate fever and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to treat an underlying condition that may be causing your chronic diarrhea.

3. Treating medical conditions- How doctors treat chronic diarrhea depends on the cause. Chronic diarrhea is sometimes caused by an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. Common conditions that cause diarrhea include irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and chronic pancreatitis. 

4. The use of probiotics- Your doctor may recommend probiotics to treat diarrhea. Probiotics are good bacteria that are very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Probiotics reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. If your gastroenterologist recommends probiotics, talk with him or her about how much probiotics you should take and for how long. 

Chronic diarrhea can affect your daily activities and make life frustrating and miserable. Don't hesitate to contact a gastroenterologist about diarrhea. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring all the relief you need, with little hassle or expense. 

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
August 14, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Constipation  

Having trouble going to the bathroom? Find out what might be to blame.

Constipation is an annoying and embarrassing problem that all of us will experience at some point. Constipation is when you are unable to have a bowel movement or you have trouble passing stools. If you are having less than three bowel movements a week then you could be dealing with constipation.

This problem isn’t usually something to worry about, as it usually resolves itself on its own. Of course, there are times in which you may want to turn to a gastroenterologist for care.

What causes constipation?

This usually happens when the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, making it difficult to expel. Causes of constipation include:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor diet
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Anal fissures
  • Bowel stricture (narrowing of the colon)
  • Conditions that affect the nerves of the colon or rectum (e.g. stroke; Parkinson’s disease)
  • Weak pelvic muscles
  • Hormone changes due to pregnancy, diabetes, or certain thyroid disorders

There are also certain factors that can increase your chances for chronic constipation:

  • Age (older adults are more likely to experience constipation)
  • Dehydration
  • Not getting enough fiber in your diet
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle
  • Taking certain medications (e.g. antidepressants; blood pressure medications)
  • Certain mental health disorders such as depression

How can you prevent constipation?

If you deal with constipation regularly there are some ways to help lessen the chances for this problem. Make sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day and include a lot of fiber-rich foods in your diet such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans. Stay away from processed foods, and make sure you are staying active.

When should I see a doctor?

It’s a good idea to give your GI doctor a call if you’ve been experiencing constipation for over 3 weeks or if lifestyle modifications such as drinking more water or adding more fiber to your diet just aren’t working. It’s also important to see a specialist as soon as possible if your constipation is accompanied by pain or if you see blood on the toilet paper (this could be a sign of hemorrhoids or an anal fissure).

 

If you are experiencing chronic or severe constipation it’s a good idea to turn to a GI specialist who will help you get to the root of the problem and help get your digestive tract moving in the right direction.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
August 01, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Upper endoscopy  

This diagnostic procedure could determine the root cause of your digestive issues.

An upper endoscopy is a simple procedure in which your gastroenterologist will insert a small, flexible tube that contains a camera in the mouth and guide it carefully into the upper digestive tract (stomach and small intestines). Why is this outpatient procedure performed? Many reasons, actually. Your gastroenterologist may recommend getting this procedure if there are signs of bleeding within the upper digestive system.

An endoscopy is also a great tool for being able to detect inflammation within the digestive tract, as well as ulcers and tumors. You may benefit from an endoscopy if you are experiencing:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

An upper endoscopy is a much better and more accurate diagnostic tool for detecting growths and other abnormalities within the lining the digestive system than x-rays. Furthermore, many gastrointestinal issues can often be treated during the endoscopy. This includes the biopsy and/or removal of polyps, opening up narrowed areas of the esophagus or stomach, removing objects or obstructions within the intestinal tract or stopping a bleed.

Before your procedure, your gastroenterologist will give you detailed instructions to follow. This includes not eating or drinking anything for eight hours before your endoscopy. Patients with certain conditions such as a history of endocarditis (an infection of the heart valve) or those with artificial heart valves may need to take antibiotics beforehand to reduce their risk for an infection. Patients who take medications may still take their medication before the procedure with a little bit of water.

An endoscopy is performed under sedation so you won’t feel anything or remember the procedure. It’s important that you bring someone with you who will be able to drive you home afterwards, as sedation’s effects can last up to eight hours after. Prior to the procedure, a local anesthesia may be sprayed in the back of the throat to numb the area. You will then receive a combination or pain and sedation medication through an IV. Then the thin endoscope will be placed in the mouth and directed through the esophagus into the stomach. The procedure takes approximately 15-20 minutes.

 

If you are experiencing symptoms of bleeding, ulcers, or other issues within the digestive system, an endoscopy can be an amazing tool for determining what’s going on and what can be done to treat the problem.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
July 31, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Colonoscopy  

Should you have a colonoscopy? The procedure helps your gastroenterologist diagnose gastrointestinal problems and is a valuable cancer colonoscopyscreening tool. Galena, KS, gastroenterologist Dr. Allan Weston of Digestive Health Center of the Four States helps you manage and improve your digestive health with colonoscopies and other tests and treatments.

What is a colonoscopy?

A colonoscopy allows your gastroenterologist to view the lining of your colon and lower intestinal tract without surgery. During the minimally invasive procedure, a thin, flexible scope is introduced through your anus. The end of the scope contains a light and a camera that transmits images to a digital screen as it's passed through your intestinal tract.

Do I really need a colonoscopy when I turn 50?

Initial screening colonoscopies are recommended for both men and women at age 50, as you're more likely to develop colon cancer as you get older. If your colonoscopy results are normal, you may not need another test for 10 years. Potential signs of cancer include lesions, bleeding or polyps in the lining of your colon or lower intestinal tract. If your Galena gastroenterologist notices any polyps, he'll remove them during your procedure, then send them to a laboratory for analysis. The presence of a polyp doesn't necessarily mean you have colon cancer. Some polyps are benign or pre-cancerous.

Are colonoscopies recommended at other times?

In addition to screening colonoscopies, the procedure may be recommended if:

  • You've had colon cancer in the past or are at high risk of developing the cancer: You may need colonoscopies more frequently than every 10 years or earlier than age 50 if you've already had colon cancer, have a family history of the disease, had polyps in the past, had pelvic or abdominal radiation treatments, or have an inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Your doctor is concerned about your gastrointestinal symptoms: Colonoscopies can help your doctor determine why you have abdominal pain, constipation, changes in bowel movements, diarrhea, rectal bleeding or unexpected weight loss. Small areas of tissue may be removed for biopsy during your colonoscopy. Some issues, such as bleeding, can even be treated during the procedure.

Colonoscopies offer a simple way to safeguard your health. Schedule your colonoscopy with Galena, KS, gastroenterologist Dr. Allan Weston of Digestive Health Center of the Four States by calling (620) 783-1650.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
July 16, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Ulcerative Colitis  

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes severe and even bloody diarrhea that can result in abdominal pain and unexpected weight loss. While people have probably heard about Crohn’s disease more often than they have ulcerative colitis, this condition actually affects as many as 907,000 of the 1.6 million Americans living with IBD.

While ulcerative colitis can happen to anyone, a gastroenterologist most often diagnoses it during a person’s later teen years or by early adulthood. While there is no definitive cause of ulcerative colitis, a family history of this condition can certainly increase your chances of developing this chronic GI problem.

Those with ulcerative colitis experience diarrhea, which can be bloody at times. Some patients may experience rectal pain, occasional constipation, abdominal discomfort, fever, or weight loss. In order to diagnose this gastrointestinal issue, a GI specialist will often need to perform imaging tests such as a CT scan or run an endoscopy to check the health of the gastrointestinal tract and to look for signs of ulcerative colitis.

While there is currently no cure for this condition, there are certainly an array of medications and treatment options available to help you keep your symptoms and flare-ups in check. The type of treatment plan that your GI doctor will create for you will depend on the type and severity of your symptoms.

The main goals of treating ulcerative colitis are to reduce inflammation within the colon while also speeding up the remission process and making sure that your symptoms stay in remission for as long as possible. Of course, it is still possible, even with the right medication, to experience symptoms.

Common medications for treating ulcerative colitis include:

  • Antibiotics: to target any infections within the GI tract
  • Aminosalicylates: to treat mild to moderate inflammation within the colon
  • Corticosteroids: for short-term treatment of moderate to severe symptoms
  • Biologics: to target a specific protein, which leads to inflammation

Sometimes, over-the-counter medications and supplements may be used in conjunction with prescription medications. These may include vitamins and nutritional supplements, pain medications and antidiarrheal. If your ulcerative colitis doesn’t respond to these medications then you’ll want to discuss the benefits with your gastroenterologist of getting surgery to remove parts of the colon or rectum to alleviate severe or persistent symptoms.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
July 02, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: C. Diff   C. difficile  

C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) is an infection that should be talked about more often than it is despite the fact that it infects half a million Americans each year. While C. diff bacteria can be found within the gut of healthy individuals the healthy gut bacteria work to keep the potentially harmful bacteria in check. C. diff spores can be found in our environment through the air we breathe, or even the clothes on our back or the foods we consume. This is usually how we end up with C. diff in our guts.

However, sometimes circumstances arise in which C. diff bacteria are able to multiply within the gut. This most often occurs in someone who is taking antibiotics because while antibiotics are being used to fight an infection it can also kill off some of the healthy bacteria in our gut.

Unfortunately, C. diff bacteria are resistant to many kinds of antibiotics, giving it free range to thrive and multiply quickly within the gut. These bacteria, particularly in larger numbers, can also produce toxins. It’s usually the toxins themselves that lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fever.

C. diff infections can range from mild to severe. In milder cases, patients may liken their symptoms to an infection within the stomach (also known as gastroenteritis). These symptoms may be mild and self-limiting, lasting anywhere from a couple of days to multiple weeks. Usually, medication or treatment isn’t needed in order to treat the infection.

However, those dealing with severe diarrhea, blood in the stool, severe abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration should seek the care of a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. While these symptoms can be indicative of several different gastrointestinal issues, if you suspect that you might have a C. diff infection it’s important that you seek immediate medical treatment.

Since most people have C. diff within their gut, if it isn’t causing any issues then no treatment is necessary. As we mentioned before, those dealing with minor symptoms may be able to let the issue run its course. Those with severe infections may need to be hospitalized. If you are still taking the antibiotics that may have caused this problem then you will most likely need to stop taking it so that the healthy gut bacteria have a chance of returning and making the gut healthier.

Those with severe diarrhea or colitis (inflammation of the colon) may be prescribed very specific antibiotics known to kill the C. diff bacteria. In the meantime, make sure you are drinking enough water and fluids to keep your body hydrated. If diarrhea is severe, your doctor may need to give you fluids and nutrients through an IV.

Luckily, most people dealing with this infection will be able to fully recover, even if they don’t get treatment; however, those who are older or have a weak immune system should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect an infection. While symptoms can be unpleasant, they will usually go away in a few weeks.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
June 19, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Heartburn   GERD  

Do you find that most mealtimes end up being ruined by gnawing, nagging heartburn? While most people will experience heartburn at some point during their lifetime, if you are someone who suffers from this problem several times a week then you may just have a digestive disorder known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

 

What is GERD?

Whenever you eat food, it travels from the esophagus to the stomach. Once food enters the stomach, the stomach produces acid to break up the food. Of course, in healthy individuals the food travels from the stomach to the intestines; however, if you have GERD then the acid and food contents actually flow back up to the esophagus from the stomach, irritating the lining of the throat and causing a nasty case of heartburn.

 

What are the symptoms?

Heartburn is a classic symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a burning in the chest that also affects the lining of the throat. Heartburn sometimes produces an acidic or bitter taste in the mouth. Symptoms may get worse if you eat a big meal, consume something spicy or lie down immediately after eating.

 

How is GERD diagnosed?

In some situations a gastroenterologist may be able to determine that you have GERD based on the symptoms you describe and through a simple physical exam; however, sometimes a diagnostic test is required in order to determine whether your symptoms are truly caused by GERD or something else. An upper endoscopy is one common diagnostic procedure performed to check for signs of inflammation or damage to the lining of the esophagus, which are indicative of GERD.

 

What are my treatment options?

Your treatment plan will most likely consist of lifestyle modifications and medications.

 

Lifestyle modifications

If you are overweight or obese you may be at a higher risk for developing GERD. It’s important to lose that excess weight and to maintain a healthy weight to reduce your symptoms. Quit smoking if you are currently a smoker. Make sure to eat slowly and eat smaller meals. Don’t lie down immediately after eating and eat about three hours before going to bed.

 

Also, there are certain foods that can trigger heartburn symptoms including chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, tomato sauce, garlic, or fatty and spicy foods. Limit or avoid any of these foods if they are known to cause you heartburn.

 

Medication

Those with milder symptoms may be able to use an over-the-counter antacid or medication to manage their symptoms; however, if symptoms are moderate-to-severe, or if you have damage to the lining of the esophagus, then you’ll need a stronger medication to reduce or even prevent the production of stomach acid until the damage has healed.

 

If you deal with heartburn on a regular basis or can’t seem to get heartburn under control it’s important that you turn to a GI doctor who can help you find the proper treatment option to prevent digestive complications and to make mealtimes more enjoyable again.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
June 05, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Hepatitis C  

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. Most people have no symptoms right after they have been infected, and since any symptoms are likely to go away in a few weeks, you may not know you have Hepatitis C for a long time. Here are the most common signs of Hepatitis C.

1. Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels. Normally bilirubin gets broken down in the liver and released from the body in the stool. But if the liver is damaged, it cannot properly process bilirubin.

2. Dark Urine

Urine naturally has some yellow pigments called urobilin or urochrome. The color of the urine can vary when certain medications are taken and when foods of certain types are consumed. Chronic dark-colored urine can be related to serious liver conditions, including Hepatitis C and cirrhosis.

3. Chronic Fatigue

The severity of this fatigue differs from person to person. Some individuals are able to work, but then feel burned out in the evening. Some people spend a large amount of time sleeping. However, someone people feel very tired after a good night's sleep. The fatigue associated with Hepatitis C often improves with treatment.

4. Aches and Pains

Some people with Hepatitis C experience abdominal pain. Many suffer from aches and pains in their joints. A variety of different joints can be involved but the most common are in the wrists and hands. The pains can range from mild to severe. In such cases, medications can be used to ease the pain.

5. Poor Appetite

Loss of appetite implies that hunger is absent. Your appetite may worsen if you have cirrhosis or liver failure. Loss of appetite can also be caused by other diseases and conditions. Some of the conditions can be temporary, such as appetite loss from the effects of medication.

6. Low-grade Fever

Everyone gets a fever from time to time. Most usually don't indicate anything serious. However, some people with Hepatitis C experience a low-grade fever (fever up to 102°F). You should book an appointment with a doctor if you've had a fever for more than three days.

7. Cognitive Changes

Some people with Hepatitis C experience problems with concentration, short-term memory, and completing complex mental tasks such as mental arithmetic. Studies have shown that about half of those with Hepatitis C experience cognitive disturbances.

Many people are surprised to learn that they have been infected with Hepatitis C. Some people feel overwhelmed by the changes they need to make in their lives. At a time when life feels out of control, remember that you can take an active role in your health- and your life.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
May 15, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Heartburn  

You would love to just be able to sit down and enjoy a meal, but you know that not long afterward you are going to be dealing with the burning, Heartburngnawing pain in your stomach caused by heartburn. No matter if this is something that you have been facing for a while or this is a new issue you are dealing with, it’s important that you have a gastroenterologist that can help you figure out what’s going on.

It’s important to understand that heartburn isn’t a condition but a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), in which stomach acid travels back up through the esophagus causing burning and irritation of the esophageal lining.

So, what are the leading culprits of heartburn? There are quite a few things that could cause this issue including:

  • Certain foods or drinks: Everything from alcohol and caffeine to acidic and spicy foods can exacerbate heartburn symptoms. Diets that are high in fatty or fried foods can also make heartburn worse.

  • Medications: There are certain over-the-counter medications that can also cause heartburn to flare-up.

  • Smoking: Smoking cigarettes can actually affect how the lower esophageal sphincter functions, allowing stomach acid to travel back through the esophagus.

  • A hiatal hernia: A condition in which some of the stomach protrudes into the chest.

  • Pregnancy: Pressure placed on the abdomen during pregnancy could increase your chances of heartburn.

  • Obesity: Having any additional pressure placed on the abdomen, which is common if you are overweight or obese, can bring on a nasty bout of heartburn.

Fortunately, there are many ways in which to reduce the severity and frequency of heartburn. Turning to a GI specialist is the best approach, as they can provide you with a variety of lifestyle changes and medications based on your symptoms, current health, lifestyle, and how much damage has already taken place within the esophagus.

From there, they will create a tailored treatment plan with a medication that will either greatly lessen the amount of acid the stomach produces or temporarily block stomach acid from being produced to help promote healing within the esophagus.

Lifestyle changes may include eating smaller meals, not eating right before bedtime, avoiding exacerbating foods or drinks, losing excess weight, and quitting smoking.

 

Don’t let heartburn make you dread sitting down to enjoy your favorite meals. There are so many ways in which to get your heartburn symptoms under control. If you are having trouble finding the right treatment option for you don’t hesitate to turn to a gastroenterologist for guidance and treatment.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
May 14, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: acid reflux  

Your heartburn is coming more frequently. The burping, bloating, and even some nausea interfere with your daily routine, and you just want acid refluxrelief. At Digestive Health Center of the Four States in Galena, KS, Dr. Allan Weston and his caring team help scores of patients manage symptoms of acid reflux and they'll help you, too.

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux happens when the acids and contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. Most individuals at midlife suffer from acid reflux, or heartburn, from time to time, but persistent symptoms may indicate a more serious condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux, or GERD.

GERD requires proper evaluation and treatment, says the American College of Gastroenterology, because repeated episodes of reflux may lead to ulcers, problems with swallowing (dysphagia) or a condition called Barrett's Esophagus. Barrett's may be a precursor to esophageal cancer which the American College of Gastroenterology says is rapidly rising in the United States.

Symptoms of acid reflux

A burning feeling in the chest is the most common symptom of acid reflux. Additional symptoms often include:

  • Burping
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Wheezing
  • Nausea
  • Loose stools

Obesity, a sedentary lifestyle and high-fat diet contribute to acid reflux as do tobacco usage and eating too close to bedtime.

Diagnosis and treatment in Galena

When you come to Digestive Health Center of the Four States, Dr. Weston will review your symptoms. Often, over-the-counter or prescription acid-suppressing medications alleviate occasional problems with acid reflux. However, more severe and frequent symptoms need further investigation through:

  • Special X-rays called an Upper GI series (this involves ingestion of barium to "light up" the GI tract)
  • Endoscopy, or insertion of a thin tube with attached camera and light
  • Esophageal Ph, a measure of the acidity of the stomach contents

H2 receptor antagonists and proton pump inhibitors are two common prescription medications which control GERD symptoms. Also, patients should eliminate all tobacco--both cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. Limit alcohol, and fatty and acidic foods.

Dr. Weston urges his GI patients to modify some lifestyle habits such as:

  • Squeezing into too tight clothing
  • Sleeping flat (instead, sleep at an incline via raising the head of the bed on blocks or buying an adjustable bed)
  • Eating two to three hours before bedtime

Some surgical interventions change the juncture between the stomach and the diaphragm, eliminating a hiatal hernia. New endoscopic techniques using radiofrequency ablation recreate the lining of the esophagus, treating the problems associated with Barrett's esophagus. Of course, Dr. Weston favors the most conservative treatments first before advising any type of surgery.

Do you have acid reflux?

If you suspect you do, please contact the Digestive Health Center of the Four States in Galena, KS, for a consultation with Dr. Weston. Reflux can be managed so you have your best GI health. Call (620) 783-1650.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
May 01, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Colonoscopy  

Chances are good you’ve heard of a colonoscopy before, whether through a health report on the news or because you know someone who had toColonoscopy get one. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure and often a screening tool that allows your gastroenterologist to be able to see what the lining of the colon and intestines looks. A thin scope is inserted into the rectum and carefully directed through the lower intestines. The scope has a camera at the end that allows your doctor to pinpoint potential problems with the lining of the intestines or colon. There are a few reasons why your doctor might recommend getting a colonoscopy.

If a patient comes in complaining of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or persistent diarrhea and these symptoms can’t be explained through a routine exam and testing then your GI doctor may recommend performing a colonoscopy to be able to determine the root cause for these symptoms. This might be particularly helpful if you or a family member has a history of colon cancer or colon polyps.

Even if you are feeling fine, both men and women, once they reach 50-years-old, will need to start getting routine colonoscopies to screen for colon polyps and other signs of colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is one of the most effective screening tools a gastroenterologist has for being able to pinpoint warning signs of cancer with the large intestines and colon. No other screening tool will be able to provide the detailed imaging that a colonoscopy can.

If the results of your routine colonoscopy come back normal then you probably won’t need to repeat the procedure for another 10 years. If one or more polyps were detected during your colonoscopy your GI specialist may choose to remove them during the procedure but may recommend that you come in more regularly for a colonoscopy.

You may also need to have this procedure performed more often if you have a family or personal history of colon cancer or colon polyps. It’s important to be upfront about your detailed medical history when talking to a gastrointestinal specialist to determine the best colonoscopy schedule to protect your digestive health.

No matter if you are experiencing distressing intestinal symptoms or you just turned 50-years-old, it’s a good idea to turn to a gastrointestinal specialist who can provide you with the individualized care you need. Remember, getting a colonoscopy after you turn 50 could just end up saving your life!

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
April 13, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Acute Pancreatitis  

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.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
April 03, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Endoscopy  

Gastroenterologists are concerned with conditions that affect the stomach, intestinal tract, colon and other organs involved in digestion and waste elimination. These conditions include certain types of cancer, biliary tract disease, ulcers and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The test that checks for these potential health issues is called an endoscopy. There are several different endoscopic procedures that allow your doctor to check the digestive system, including a colonoscopy, enteroscopy and an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy. Find out more about getting an endoscopy and whether it’s time for you to have this test.

What Is an Endoscopy?
During an endoscopy, a long tube is inserted into an orifice (usually the mouth or anus) to look at the organs of the body. The tube, called an endoscope, has a camera that allows your doctor to view the targeted area. In the case of a colonoscopy, the endoscope is inserted into the rectum and provides a visual of your colon and intestines. An enteroscopy views the small intestine and an upper GI endoscopy looks at the parts of your upper intestinal tract, including the esophagus.

What Does an Endoscopy Detect?
An endoscopy can detect polyps (benign and precancerous) as well as cancerous tumors. It can also identify the presence of ulcers, inflammation and other damage to the wall of the intestines or stomach. An upper GI endoscopy can determine the cause of heartburn, chest pain and problems swallowing your food. In some cases, polyps or objects can be removed during the procedure or tissue samples may be taken. A stent can also be inserted in restricted areas of the stomach, esophagus or intestinal tract.

Do You Need this Test?
Here are a few indications that you should see your gastroenterologist soon for an endoscopy:

  • You have intense pain in the abdomen or have been diagnosed with digestive problems
  • You have severe acid reflux or chronic heartburn
  • You feel as if there is some type of blockage in your intestinal tract (such as long-term constipation)
  • There’s blood in the stool
  • There’s a family history of colon cancer
  • You’re over the age of 50

See Your Gastroenterologist
An endoscopy is not a test that you want to delay long if you’re concerned about your stomach, colon and digestive health. Call a gastroenterologist in your area to schedule an initial consultation and exam today.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
March 14, 2018
Category: GI Care

Gastroenterologists, also called GI doctors, are concerned with a wide array of issues involving the digestive system. One concern for gastroenterologists is precancerous polyps in the colon, rectum and other areas of the intestinal tract. It’s wise to be informed about polyps and how they may affect your gastroenterological and overall health.

What Are Precancerous Polyps?
A polyp is a small, fleshy nodule that forms on the inside of the intestines or colon. It is considered an abnormal growth, but in many cases, they are found to be benign (commonly in the early stages). However, over time polyps can become large and malignant if they aren’t treated. Many polyps are found to be pre-cancerous, which means they have the potential to turn cancerous if they aren’t removed. With early detection through an endoscopic test, the risk can be eliminated by your gastroenterologist.

What Are the Potential Causes?
Doctors aren’t definitively sure what causes polyps to form, but there are a number of theories. Here are a few:

  • Heredity (a family history of colon or intestinal problems) or certain hereditary conditions
  • Poor diet or lack of nutrition
  • Lack of exercise and regular physical activity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diagnosis of ulcerative or Crohn’s colitis
  • The natural aging process for some patients (which is why regular exams are recommended after age 50)

What to Do About Them
The good news is that precancerous polyps can usually be quickly and effectively treated by your gastroenterologist. They are diagnosed through an exam called a virtual colonoscopy. A tube called a fiber-optic scope is inserted into the rectum that can identify the presence of a polyp and take a sample for a biopsy. If it is precancerous, your GI doctor can remove the polyp at another colonoscopy appointment. You should make this polyp removal appointment a priority.

Make an Appointment with a Gastroenterologist
The health of your digestive and elimination system is crucial to your overall health. Whether you’re in need of an initial endoscopic test to check for polyps or you’ve already been diagnosed with a precancerous polyp, call a gastroenterologist in your area for an appointment.

By Digestive Health Center of the Four States
March 02, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Gastroenterology  

When it comes to matters involving your digestive tract, stomach, and colon, a gastroenterologist is the doctor to consult with. GI specialists also help patientsGastroenterology with matters involving the pancreas, gallbladder, liver and other organs involved in the elimination of waste. Here are some of the most common frequently asked questions that patients have for gastroenterologists.

What Does a Gastroenterologist Do?
A gastroenterologist is tasked with studying, managing and treating disorders involving the gastrointestinal tract. They diagnose potential problems that stand in the way of your body’s ability to comfortably and easily digest food, move it through the body and get rid of waste. It’s important that your gastrointestinal system is healthy so that your body absorbs the nutrition it needs for energy and vitality. GI doctors undergo rigorous training in this specialized area of medicine for five or six years after medical school.

What Tests Are Needed?
There are a number of tests that a gastroenterologist may recommend depending on your digestive concerns. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Colonoscopy (checks rectum, colon, and intestinal tract)
  • Upper GI endoscopy (checks esophagus and upper gastro system)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (similar to a colonoscopy, but only examines a portion of the colon)
  • Endoscopic or abdominal ultrasound
  • Abdominal Angiogram
  • CT enterography

What Treatments Are Administered?
If a problem is identified in the gastrointestinal tract or system, there are a number of possible solutions your GI doctor may explore:

  • Polyp removal (done with an endoscope)
  • Esophageal, colonic, duodenal or bile duct stent placement (allows the comfortable passage of bodily fluids, solids, and waste)
  • Cecostomy (clears bowels)
  • Surgical procedures (such as bowel surgery, appendectomy, colostomy, proctectomy, gastric bypass surgery, etc)

Ask More Questions at Your Initial Appointment
Whatever specific questions you may have for a gastroenterologist, they are best addressed at your first visit. You should make this important appointment when recommended by your primary physician or when you have symptoms of a GI problem (bleeding, chronic constipation or diarrhea, heartburn and similar concerns), Call a gastroenterologist in your area to schedule a consultation today.





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