If you regularly experience common illnesses, such as heartburn or stomach ache that do not improve with over-the-counter medications, or have severe pain or other symptoms, a gastroenterologist can help.
Often called a GI doctor, a gastroenterologist treats diseases and disorders of the digestive tract and liver. These specialists treat cancers, liver disease, heartburn, gallbladder problems, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, internal bleeding, celiac disease and other disorders. A GI doctor can also educate you on how to keep your digestive system healthy.
When should you consult a gastroenterologist? Your primary care provider may refer you to a GI specialist if you have any of the following:
- You have heartburn that doesn’t improve with over-the-counter medications. Although occasional heartburn is common, you should seek help if you also have nausea, vomiting, or swallowing problems, or if heartburn keeps you awake at night.
- You have a persistent or intense stomach ache. Abdominal discomfort is usually caused by a stomach virus, indigestion or gas. Month intense pain may indicate a blockage of the intestines.
- There is blood in the stool. Whether it’s red or black, blood in the stool is something you need to check. It could indicate bleeding in the digestive tract.
- Food sticks to the esophagus. This can look like a lump in the throat and can cause difficult and painful swallowing. It can also cause loss of appetite or vomiting and can be a sign of an illness or some kind of abnormality.
- You are 45 years old. Even if you feel well and have no symptoms, the American Cancer Society recommends that you have your first screening colonoscopy at age 45 and every 10 years thereafter. “Colonoscopies save lives,” says Tommy Pacana, a gastroenterologist at Rush Copley Gastroenterology. “This procedure can find cancer early when it’s easier to treat. That’s why it’s best to get tested for it before you have symptoms.”
If you have any of these symptoms or risk factors, talk to your primary care provider if you want to see a GI specialist.
Rush University Medical Center
Citation: 5 reasons to consult a gastroenterologist (2021, June 11), retrieved June 11, 2021 at https://medicalxpress.com/news/2021-06-gastroenterologist.html
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