Gastrointestinal conditions refer to illnesses involving the gastrointestinal tract (mouth to rectum) and other digestive accessory organs such as the gallbladder, liver and pancreas. The term covers acute, chronic and recurrent ailments, many of which can be prevented with routine check-ups and a healthy lifestyle.
Gastrointestinal disorders are very common and symptoms can range from mild to severe. Conditions may be as simple as indigestion or as serious and deadly as colon cancer.
Here are the 10 most common gastrointestinal conditions:
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Commonly known as acid reflux or heartburn, GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back up the esophagus. It is characterized by a burning sensation in the lower chest area, which lasts for hours and is often worse after eating. Other symptoms are nausea, cough and regurgitation. Treatments include a change in lifestyle and diet, and over-the-counter medicines such as antacids, alginates and H2 blockers.
- Peptic Ulcers
Caused by the H. pylori bacteria, peptic ulcers are sores that develop in the stomach, esophagus and small intestine. The most telling sign is a burning pain in the abdomen, in between the chest and navel. Other symptoms are nausea, indigestion, unexplained weight loss, dark stools and vomiting. Left untreated, ulcers lead to internal bleeding or a hole in the stomach or intestine. Antibiotics, proton-pump inhibitors and acid blockers are the main treatments.
Gallstones are hardened deposits formed from excessive cholesterol in the bile. Stones vary in size, and can block the bile duct, causing intense pain in the upper right part of the abdomen. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, indigestion, dark urine and pale stools are common symptoms. Small gallstones the size of a grain can be naturally passed out of the gallbladder and excreted in the faeces. Removal of larger stones may require endoscopy or surgery.
- Celiac Disease
Celiac disease is sensitivity to gluten, which is found in wheat, oats, barley and rye. This condition refers to the immune system’s response to gluten, causing a reaction that attacks the small intestine’s lining. This results in malabsorption, diarrhea, weight loss, anemia and fatigue. Other symptoms include skin rashes, mouth ulcers, joint pain and heartburn. Main treatments include a gluten-free diet and vitamin supplements.
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a spastic colon is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders and is characterized by diarrhea, constipation, bloating and abdominal cramps. IBS is a functional disorder affecting motility. While it brings about discomfort and mild pain, IBS does not damage the digestive system.
Dyspepsia, also known as indigestion, is characterized by chronic pain in the upper abdomen. Symptoms include a burning sensation in the stomach or abdomen, bloating, nausea, belching and vomiting. Maintaining a healthy diet, lifestyle and eating habit can help prevent indigestion.
Constipation is a digestive problem in which an individual has difficulty emptying his bowels. On its own, it can be accompanied by lower abdominal discomfort, dry and hard stools, rectal bleeding, anal fissures and straining. Constipation is treated by a high-fiber diet and in some cases, laxatives, enemas, suppositories and other stool softeners.
This condition occurs when the diverticula (protruding pouches that form in the colon) become infected or inflamed. It is manifested through abdominal pain, nausea, fever and irregular bowel movements. Treatment depends on the severity of diverticulitis. For mild cases, antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers are recommended. Surgery is only required for more serious and complicated cases.
- Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory bowel illness characterized by sores and inflammations in the colon and rectum. Symptoms often develop gradually, and they include abdominal pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, fever, fatigue and difficulty emptying one’s bowels despite feeling the urgency. Medicines such as anti-inflammatory and anti-diarrheal drugs, immune system suppressors, antibiotics and pain relievers, are the main forms of treatment. Surgery is only necessary in severe cases and as a means to prevent colon cancer.
Hemorrhoids or piles are inflamed veins in the rectum and anus. They can form internally (inside the rectum) or externally (outside the anus). This gastrointestinal disorder is one of the leading causes or rectal bleeding and has symptoms including extreme itching, pain and irritation around the anus, painful bowel movements and fecal leakage. Hemorrhoids are very common and often go away on their own, sometimes with the help of high-fiber diets, medicines and other home remedies. Surgical procedures are available for the removal of larger or recurrent hemorrhoids.
While these gastrointestinal conditions are quite common, they may be indicative of an underlying illness or develop into more serious disorders when left untreated. Always seek immediate medical care at the earliest detection of any symptom. For a detailed consultation, contact Dr Shanker at 6737-5388 today.