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Who is a gastrointestinal surgeon?
A gastrointestinal surgeon treats various parts of the body which are involved in digestion. This system involving the gastrointestinal tract or GI tract includes the mouth, esophagus (food pipe), stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum and the anus. It helps the human body to break down the food we eat while absorbing all the nourishment required for the well being of the system.
Our digestive system is a complex system that could get disrupted due to diet, emotional stress or disease. Any such disturbance and digestive hindrance should be addressed with a gastrointestinal surgeon. While some of the digestive ailments can be remedied through medication and lifestyle changes, others would require surgery.
When should I consult a GI doctor?
Well, it is a long process of digestion from the time the food enters the mouth and is processed, till the waste is defecated. Changes in food, diet, medication and lifestyle could lead to some disagreements within the system, bringing on the need to talk to a Gastrointestinal Surgeon.
Gastroenterologists also often work together with gastrointestinal surgeons and other specialists such as oncologists, hematologists and radiologists depending on the patient's case file. We (Ask A Doctor) provide many online health services where you can consult a gastrointestinal surgeon or a gastroenterologist online for advice and opinion.
Here are some of the symptoms that shouldn't be ignored and are to be brought to a Gastrointestinal Surgeon Doctor's notice:
A lump in the throat: If a lump appears in the throat, unaccompanied by a cold or flu symptoms then the problem could be related to digestion
Blood in the stool: Seeing bright blood along with stool is different from black stool (blood as part of the stool). Both situations require a doctor's attention. Black stool in particular is a lot more serious than bleeding during defecation.
Inexplicable loss of weight: Although many of us dream of losing weight without effort, when weight reduces without any explanation, then it calls for a visit to a GI doctor or a consult with a Gastrointestinal Surgeon Expert Online
Hemorrhoids: Inflamed collection of tissues in the rectum or anus leading to pain, swelling, itching and bleeding is what is known as piles or hemorrhoids. These inflammations could be internal or external and have to be treated differently depending on its location.
Sudden weight gain: Bloating alone might not be a problem with this symptom, it could be sudden tightness felt in clothes worn along with abdominal pain, blood in stool etc. Some causes could be gallstones, allergies or acid reflux. On the whole, it shouldn't be ignored.
Flatulence: Excessive gas that is foul-smelling along with discomfort in the abdomen maybe manageable when it subsides in a couple of days' time. However, it could be a cause for concern when it persists and reoccurs along with changes in bowel movement (diarrhea or constipation).
Heartburn: Acid reflux, that is burning sensation in the chest, besides the occasional regurgitation of undigested food up the esophagus are prominent symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). When this persists for weeks, it is about time to ask a Gastrointestinal Surgeon online or within your reach about its management and treatment.
Other symptoms related to the GI tract are lethargy, nausea, vomiting, upper or lower abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation etc.
What are the most common digestive conditions?
The most prevalent conditions related to digestion are:
GERD: Yes, gastroesophageal reflux disease tops the chart when it comes to digestive issues. It begins with pain and burning sensation in the chest and acid reflux, often after a meal. Other symptoms would be bad breath, nausea, tooth erosion, swallowing difficulty and breathing difficulty due to indigestion. These symptoms would be persistent or recurrent if it was GERD. It can be managed by restricting certain foods, with medication and treatment, and sometimes surgery based on the severity of the disease.
Gallbladder stones: These stones, also called gallstones, are hard deposits that form in the gall bladder. When an excess of stomach bile accumulates, when cholesterol is too much or when residual remains amass within the gall bladder during digestion, these gall stones are formed. These stones end up blocking the duct connecting to the gall bladder leading to acute pain in the upper-right abdomen. Medication would be prescribed by GI doctors to dissolve these stones and if that doesn't work, the other option would be to surgically remove the gall bladder.
Peptic ulcers: Sores that develop in the lining of the stomach and sometimes the small intestine are called peptic ulcers. These ulcers form usually due to inflammation created by the H.pylori bacteria. They also occur due to the erosion of the stomach lining caused by stomach acids. Unexplained severe stomach pain is the most common symptom. Antibiotics along with dietary changes help treat this condition. This is mainly to get rid of H.pylori bacteria from the stomach. Only during severe cases would surgery be considered an option.
Diverticulitis: Small abnormal bulges of diverticula form in the inner walls of the stomach. However, when these diverticula pouches become inflamed they cause abdominal pain and fever. Such inflammation is called diverticulitis. It can usually be treated with antibiotics and a high fiber diet. Surgery would be considered to remove the diseased part of the colon when it becomes severe and recurrent.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): The two types of conditions of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Crohn's disease is when ulcers form in the tissue lining of the GI tract. This leads to pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, weight loss and fever. Treatment for Crohn's disease depends on the symptoms and vary from pain medication, immunosuppressants and surgery. Ulcerative colitis affects the large intestine and the rectum with the formation of ulcers or sores. These ulcers then bleed and form pus leading to abdominal cramps, blood in stool, frequent bowel movements and pain. Treatment for ulcerative colitis would include medication to reduce inflammation, dietary alterations and surgery during severe cases.
Appendicitis: The appendix is a small pouch-like organ connected at the start of the large intestine, in the lower right side. The inflammation of this organ is what is called appendicitis. The symptoms usually begin with a fever and pain around the navel; the pain steadily moves towards the right abdomen as the inflammation worsens. Other symptoms such as chills, nausea, vomiting and appetite loss accompany this. It is treated with antibiotics and a surgery, removing the organ, within 24 hours of the diagnosis. If untreated, the appendix could rupture and lead to sepsis which can become life-threatening and therefore, it needs to be treated immediately.
Hernia - When there is a weak spot causing a hole in the muscular wall (peritoneum) surrounding the abdominal organs, the defect causes the organs or tissues present there to push through forming a bulge; this is called a hernia. There are various types of hernias depending on its location and type; they are incisional hernia, inguinal hernia, umbilical hernia and hiatal hernia. The most common symptoms are swelling, discomfort, and at times pain. Depending on the type of hernia and the severity of the condition, surgery will be scheduled to close the wall with sutures, a mesh, surgical glue, staples or a combination of these.
Pancreatitis - The pancreas is a gland that releases powerful enzymes into the small intestine for smooth digestion. When these enzymes get activated before their release into the small intestine, inflammation occurs within the gland, such an inflammation is called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can either be acute or chronic and they are treated differently. Common symptoms are radiating pain between the abdomen and back, abdominal swelling, nausea, vomiting, fever and increased heart rate. The treatment for pancreatitis involves medication, fluid replacement and IV fluids, dietary changes and surgery (cholecystectomy). Since pancreatitis can affect other organs of the body like the lungs, heart and kidneys, hospitalization may be required for close monitoring.
How would a consultation with a gastrointestinal doctor be?
Well, even before you consult a doctor, it is advised to have some basic information with you.
Gather information about the patient like:
• Height and weight• Blood pressure and heart rate• Medical history and family history of health conditions• Status of current medical conditions• Medication the patient is presently taking• List of allergies• Previous surgeries• Alternative remedies, therapies or treatments
Have an idea about what all you want to find out about, any questions you need answered. Be prepared to take tests or get appropriate testing done for a proper diagnosis and prognosis.
During the consultation, put your points across clearly and completely, produce all the information present to the doctor for complete understanding. Examination of the abdominal region would be a necessity during face-to-face consultations.
The consultation would require lab tests, X-rays, endoscopic procedures or colonoscopies. Such tests may need appointments and follow ups.
Following up on the status of the disease and alterations in the medication and treatment are absolutely necessary when it comes to managing and curing GI disorders. Asking our best Gastrointestinal Surgeons online would provide the much required clarity you would need to take care of yourself.