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UNDERSTANDING GASTROENTEROLOGY

Additional Information

Overview

Gastroenterology is an area of medicine that focuses on the health of the digestive system, or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Gastroenterologists can treat everything from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to Fatty Liver Disease. Here’s a look at what these specialists do and when you should consider seeing one.


What is a gastroenterologist?

These specialists primarily diagnose and treat GI diseases in both men and women.

They perform endoscopic procedures, in which they use specialized instruments to view the GI tract and make a diagnosis. They don’t perform surgery. In some cases, they may work closely with a GI surgeon. They primarily work in clinic or hospital settings.


The GI system:

  • digests and moves food
  • absorbs nutrients
  • removes waste from your body

Gastroenterologists can treat any part of this system.


Although the GI system includes the mouth, these specialists generally don’t provide care or services here. Instead, otolaryngologists and dentists focus on the health of the oral cavity.


Other parts of the GI system include the:

  • esophagus
  • stomach
  • small intestine
  • large intestine
  • liver
  • gallbladder
  • pancreas
  • rectum
  • anus


What conditions do gastroenterologists treat?

These specialists treat a number of conditions affecting the GI system. This can include:

  • acid reflux
  • ulcers
  • IBS
  • hepatitis 
  • polyps, or growths, which typically occur in the large intestine
  • jaundice, or a yellowing of the skin
  • hemorrhoids
  • bloody stool
  • pancreatitis, or a rare disease causing inflammation of the pancreas
  • colon cancer


What procedures do gastroenterologists perform?

These specialists perform a range of nonsurgical procedures. This can include:

  • Upper endoscopies to detect esophagitis 
  • Colonoscopies to detect colon cancer or colon polyps
  • Sigmoidoscopies to evaluate the last part of the bowel
  • pH Studies and Manometry
  • Capsule endoscopies to examine the small intestine
  • Hemorrhoid banding


When should you see a gastroenterologist?

Your primary care doctor may refer you to this specialist if you:

  • have unexplained blood in your stool
  • have unexplained difficulty swallowing
  • are experiencing abdominal pain


If you’re over the age of 50, you may also want to meet with a gastroenterologist for preventive care. Men and women over the age of 50 have an increased risk for colon cancer.

If you’re in this age group, you should get screened regularly. If you have a relative with colon cancer, you should ask your doctor about when to start getting screenings.


adapted from www.healthline.com


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