Please be advised that the information on this page provides only basic facts concerning the common gastrointestinal and liver diseases. This information must not be regarded as a substitute for an appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment which should always be provided by a licensed physician. If you suspect that you or a person you know may have a gastrointestinal or liver disease, you may contact us at 281-395-8688, option 2 to schedule an appointment. You may also ask your primary care physician for medical advice.
The following topics ore covered on this page (please click on the respective topic to go directly to it):
GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common disorder of the upper gastrointestinal tract. It is caused by a prolonged presence of acid-containing liquid from the stomach within the esophagus. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, which is a burning sensation in the chest behind the breast bone often experienced after meals. Other symptoms include upper abdominal pain, chest pain which sometimes can mimic a heart attack, excessive burping, and acid taste in the mouth. Stomach acid may spill from upper esophagus into the upper respiratory tract and cause a hoarse voice, chronic cough, asthma-like symptoms, and sore throat. Serious consequences of prolonged GERD include Barrett’s esophagus, severe inflammation of esophagus (esophagitis), esophageal ulcers, esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophagus and subsequent difficulties with swallowing), and even esophageal cancer. For detailed description of GERD and associated complications as well as methods used to diagnose and treat GERD please click on the links to patient-oriented sites of the American Gastroenterology Association and the American College of Gastroenterology.
GASTRIC AND DUODENAL ULCERS
Peptic ulcers are small areas of the lining of the stomach and duodenum which have been digested by the gastric juices and acid. One of the most important risk factors for developing peptic ulcers is infection with a bacterium called Helicobacter Pylori. Most people infected by these bacteria do not know about the infection until they develop peptic ulcers or inflammation of the gastric lining called gastritis. The most common symptom of peptic ulcer is a burning pain in the upper abdomen (just below the breast bone), sometimes associated with nausea, vomiting and weight loss. Serious complications of peptic ulcers include bleeding (patient may have black, tarry stools and may vomit blood or dark, coffee-ground material) and perforation (a hole in the stomach or duodenal wall which usually requires immediate surgery). Occasionally, stomach ulcer may signal an underlying stomach cancer. For detailed description of peptic ulcer disease and associated complications as well as methods used to diagnose and treat ulcers please click on the links to patient-oriented sites of the American Gastroenterology Association and the American College of Gastroenterology.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder of the colon (large bowel). It is characterized by episodes of abdominal pain, bloating, excessive intestinal gas, and abnormal bowel habits. Some patients may have constipation whereas others may have diarrhea, at times severe. Yet other patients may experience episodes of constipation alternating with episodes of diarrhea. Since many serious diseases of the gastrointestinal tract may present in a way similar to IBS, the initial diagnostic work up is focused on searching for other serious medical problems. Some symptoms like presence of blood in stool or significant weight loss always warrant a thorough diagnostic investigation. Treatment of IBS includes modification of dietary habits, inclusion of fiber into the diet, changes in lifestyle, and use of medications. For details concerning symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of IBS please click on the links to the patient-oriented sites of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases and the American College of Gastroenterology.
Constipation is a common disorder of the gastrointestinal tract. Healthy people usually have a bowel moment once daily or every other day. Although the “normal” frequency of bowel moments may vary from person to person, fewer than 3 bowel movements per week usually indicates constipation. Most people with constipation also complain of small, hard stools, abdominal discomfort and abdominal bloating. Constipation may be caused or aggravated by many factors including medications, diet, and life style. It may also be associated with other medical conditions. Because of many possible underlying causes, all patients with constipation lasting for more than one to two weeks should be evaluated by a physician. Treatment of constipation may include changes in diet, lifestyle modifications, and use of over-the-counter or prescription medications. For some patients treatment of the underlying medical disease may be necessary as well. For details concerning causes, symptoms, and treatment of constipation please click on the links to the patient-oriented sites of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases and the American Gastroenterology Association.
INTESTINAL GAS PROBLEMS
All people produce gas within their gastrointestinal tract. Gas comes from breakdown of ingested food by harmless intestinal bacteria. Moreover, all people swallow varying amounts of air when talking or eating or drinking. Intestinal gas may be released by burping as well as by passing it through the rectum. Although having and releasing gas usually does not indicate a serious disease, many people believe they have a serious problem with gas and flatulence. Excessive production and release of intestinal gas may be embarrassing and may significantly decrease the quality of life. Finally, a new onset problem with intestinal gas may at times indicate development of a serious medical disease. For details concerning causes and treatment of excessive intestinal gas please click on the links to the patient-oriented sites of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases and the American Gastroenterology Association.
ULCERATIVE COLITIS AND CROHN’S DISEASE (INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASES)
The term “Inflammatory Bowel Disease” encompasses two distinctive diseases: ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both diseases may present with various degree of abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood in stool, fever and weight loss. The underlying cause of these symptoms is inflammation of the lining of various segments of the gastrointestinal tract. Ulcerative colitis only affects the colon (large bowel), whereas Crohn’s disease may affect the colon as well as the small bowel and - occasionally - even the stomach and the mouth. In most patients, Inflammatory Bowel Disease is a chronic, life-long condition with alternating episodes of lack of symptoms (called remissions) and of exacerbation of symptoms (flares). The mainstay treatment of Inflammatory Bowel Disease is by using medications, some of which may have to be administered intravenously. In some patients surgery may be necessary for treatment. For details concerning causes, symptoms, and treatment of ulcerative colitis please click on the links to the patient-oriented sites of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, American Gastroenterology Association and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Of America. For information concerning Crohn’s disease go the patient-oriented sites of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, the American Gastroenterology Association and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation Of America.
AND COLORECTAL CANCER SCREENING
Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers affecting Americans. In men, colorectal cancer is the second cause of death from cancer following lung cancer. In women, it is a second cause of death from cancers following breast cancer. In the year 2005, more than 145,000 Americans were diagnosed with this disease and over 56,000 died from it. These numbers are especially troubling in view of the fact that good screening methods are available. It has been estimated that over 60% of deaths from the colorectal cancer could be prevented if all eligible people were screened for this disease at appropriate intervals. Unfortunately, early colorectal cancer is usually asymptomatic. At the time patients start having symptoms like abdominal pain, anemia (low blood count), weight loss or changes in bowel habits, the tumor in the colon or rectum is usually large and, in many cases, has already spread to other organs. At this stage the prognosis is usually poor. Screening can detect early cancer and, more importantly, also the pre-cancerous lesions called polyps. Most people are not aware of having polyps. During colonoscopy - which is currently the best method for screening for colorectal cancer - polyps may be detected and safely removed. For details concerning causes, symptoms, and treatment of the colorectal cancer please click on the links to the patient-oriented sites of the American Cancer Society, and the American Gastroenterology Association.
There are many methods which may be used to screen patients for colorectal cancer. These methods include testing stool for occult (hidden) blood, performing barium enema (an X-ray of the colon filled with liquid contrast and air), having a specially designed cat scan of the abdomen (“virtual colonoscopy”), or undergoing a flexible sigmoidoscopy or full colonoscopy. As mentioned above, the best currently available screening procedure is colonoscopy. Colonoscopy is a very sensitive, reliable, and relatively safe procedure. Moreover, colonoscopy is the only screening procedure during which the pre-cancerous polyps and even small cancers may be successfully removed. For details concerning available screening methods and their risks and benefits please click on the link to the patients-oriented site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Our practice offers a new approach to screening for colorectal cancer called Open Access Colonoscopy, which makes screening colonoscopy much easier and less time consuming. In this program, relatively healthy patients eligible for screening for colorectal cancer may have colonoscopy performed without prior visit to our Clinic. For details concerning our Open Access Colonoscopy program please click on the link to the Open Access page on this site.
Chronic viral hepatitis is a liver disease caused by infection with a virus. Many viruses can cause this disease. The most common chronic viral hepatitis in the
OTHER GASTROINTESTINAL DISEASES
You can find useful information concerning many other gastrointestinal diseases in the patient-oriented sites of the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, the American Gastroenterology Association, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the American Liver Foundation.