Gastroenterology is an area of medicine that focuses on the health of the digestive system, or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.
Gastroenterology is the area of medicine concerned with the normal functioning and disorders of the oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts, liver, colon and rectum.
It involves an understanding of the normal function of the gastrointestinal organs including the movement of material through the stomach and intestine, the digestion and absorption of nutrients, removal of waste, and the function of the liver.
Some common conditions treated by a Consultant Gastroenterologist include, but are not limited to:
Hepatitis, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), peptic ulcer disease, colitis, gallstones, nutritional problems and pancreatitis.
Commonly Treated Conditions:
Colitis is a chronic condition affecting the digestive system. It causes inflammation of the inner lining of the colon. This can be accompanied by infection or blood supply loss in the colon.
The symptoms of colitis can vary depending on the severity of the condition. Symptoms may include; diarrhoea (sometimes with blood or puss in the stool), abdominal pain or cramping, rectal pain, rectal bleeding when passing stool, urgency or inability to defecate, weight loss, fatigue and sometime fever.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are concerned, you should book an appointment with your GP who may refer you on for additional testing.
Gallbladder / Biliary Tract Conditions
Conditions affecting the gallbladder and bile ducts are common. The most common being gallstones. Gallstones are hard deposits of bile which can form in your gallbladder. Normally, as you eat, your gallbladder empties bile into your small intestine.
Sometimes gallstones occur without symptoms and may not need treatment. If symptoms are present, surgery may be required to remove the gallbladder. This can be carried out either via laparoscopic surgery or open surgery. Where surgery is required, your consultant will recommend the best option based on your individual case.
Gastroesophageal Reflux (Heartburn)
Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when acid from the stomach regularly flows back into your oesophagus (the tube which connects your mouth to your stomach). This backwash, often called acid reflux, can irritate the lining of your oesophagus.
Many people occasionally experience this. However, some people experience this at least twice per week. Where this occurs, the person may be suffering from GERD, or Gastroeosophageal reflux disease.
GERD can be treated with lifestyle changes, medications (over-the-counter or prescription), surgery or any combination of the afore mentioned.
The pancreas is a long flat gland which sits in the upper abdomen behind the stomach. Pancreatitis occurs when this gland becomes inflamed.
Pancreatitis can occur as acute — meaning it appears suddenly and lasts for days or as chronic, which is pancreatitis that occurs over many years.
Mild cases of pancreatitis may go away without treatment, but more severe cases will need prompt treatment. Treatment may include a stay in hospital, fasting, the use of pain medications and fluids.
Once pancreatitis is under control, your Consultant may wish to treat the underlying cause of this pancreatitis which can be a result of many factors.
Peptic Ulcers are open sores which develop either in the upper portion of your small intestine or in the lining of your stomach. Peptic ulcers include both Gastric ulcers (ulcers which occur in the stomach) and duodenal ulcers (ulcers which occur inside the upper portion of the small intestine).
A common cause of these ulcers is infection with a bacteria called Helicobacter Pylori, or H. Pylori for short, use of anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium.
Contrary to common myth, stress or spicy foods do not cause peptic ulcers. They can however make your symptoms worse.