Our Gastroenterology Blog

Posts for category: GI Care

By Southwest Gastroenterology
December 06, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Heartburn  

Got heartburn? Heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, is a form of indigestion felt as a burning pain in the chest. It's caused when stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. More than just a minor discomfort, acid indigestion can reduce quality of life. The following tips will help you rid yourself of heartburn.

1. Change your diet. Stay away from beverages and foods that commonly cause heartburn. A good way to work out what beverages and foods trigger your heartburn symptoms is to keep track of what you eat. Common offenders include tea, coffee, tomatoes, garlic, fatty foods, spicy foods, milk, chocolate and peppermint. 

2. Don't overeat. Overeating can trigger heartburn. Big meals put pressure on the muscle that helps keep stomach contents from backing up into the esophagus. The more food you eat, the longer it takes for your stomach to empty, which contributes to acid reflux. Try eating five small meals a day to keep reflux at bay.

3. Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can trigger heartburn. Alcohol can relax the sphincter muscle at the lower end of your esophagus, causing stomach acid to flow up into your esophagus If your aim is to unwind after a long day at work, try exercise, stretching, listening to soothing music, or deep breathing instead of drinking alcohol.

4. Lose weight. If you overeat, lose weight- but be sure to consult your doctor before starting a vigorous exercise program. The increased risk of heartburn is thought to be due to excess abdominal fat causing pressure on the stomach.

5. Stop smoking. Nicotine is a muscle relaxant. Nicotine can relax the sphincter muscle, causes acid from the stomach to leak upward into the esophagus. Nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges are healthier and safer than cigarettes, and they are less likely to give you heartburn. 

6. Contact your doctor. Your doctor may suggest antacids for occasional heartburn. Sometimes, more powerful prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors or H2 blockers and are needed to treat chronic heartburn. When all else fails, surgery may be required to repair the LES.

Chronic heartburn can affect your daily activities and make life frustrating and miserable. Don't hesitate to contact a gastroenterologist about heartburn.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
November 16, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Diverticulitis  

What is diverticulitis?

Normally, we pay no attention to our large intestines, but if you have symptoms of diverticulitis, you're well aware of your bowel. Painful, inflamed bulges in the intestinal wall, diverticula are worrisome and potentially dangerous. If your physician suspects you have this GI condition common in the over-60 population, seek the services of a gastroenterologist. Specially trained in diverticulitis, and the less serious diverticulosis, a GI specialist can diagnose and treat your bowel health for better long-term function and well-being.

Symptoms of diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is serious infection which requires medical attention. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Intense lower abdominal pain
  • Blood in the stool
  • Pus and mucus with your bowel movements, indicating infection
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
When infection is severe, the individual puches of the intestinal wall may rupture, spilling bowel contents into the abdomen. This is a medical emergency and may require treatment with IV antibiotics and even surgery to repair the tears.
 
Being proactive with diverticulitis
 
Certainly, age is a factor in development of diverticula. Genetics, obesity and a sedentary lifestyle add to this GI problem, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.
 
However, gastroenterologists advise that dietary changes help decrease the chances of infection and rupture. In other words, you can live well even with diverticulosis by lowering your intake of fermentable carbohydrates such as:
  • Cabbage
  • Beans
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Dairy products
  • Sauerkraut
In decades past, physicians recommended that patients with diverticulosis avoid seeds, nuts, corn and other foods which could collect and fester in the small intestinal pouches. More recent research, however, indicates that this may not be the case but that patients should keep track of foods which seem to increase symptoms.
 
Just as with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and other complaints of the gastrointestinal tract, diverticular disease improves with increased daily intake of water, a high fiber diet, and probiotic supplements (which add "good" bacteria and yeasts to the gut). Exercise always improves GI health and overall well-being, too.
 
Diagnosing diverticulitis
 
Your gastroenterologist is the best person to see for precise diagnosis of this common condition. A barium enema, colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy and CT imaging help your specialist determine the exact cause of your symptoms and how to proceed with treatment--both for acute flare-ups and for long-term management of diverticulitis.
 
Take control
 
Your gastroenterologist encourages you to know more about your intestinal health and to stay on top of conditions such as diverticular disease. Be proactive about all aspects of your health for a longer, better life!
By Southwest Gastroenterology
November 02, 2018
Category: GI Care

Is it constipation? Is it diarrhea? Frankly, when a patient complains to his or her physician about GI problems, the doctor has to wonder, "Is it Irritable Bowel Syndrome?" If you alternate between infrequent and too frequent bowel movements, you may need evaluation by a gastroenterologist. An expert in all things from your esophagus through your stomach and intestines, a GI doctor can uncover the reasons behind bowel issues, including IBS.

About IBS and its symptoms

Unfortunately, no one knows the real origin of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. However, it definitely is a cluster of symptoms which millions of people in the US--more women than men--suffer, before the age of 50. The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders reports that stress appears to increase symptoms; however, anxiety and a high-pressure job or life circumstance do not actually cause the condition.

Besides constipation and/or diarrhea, individuals with IBS have:

  • Bouts of gas
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Pain
  • Cramps
  • Mucus in the stool
  • Fatigue
  • Intolerance to a variety of foods, including those containing gluten and lactose (dairy)
What you can do
 
Your primary care physician may refer you to a GI doctor for additional evaluation. This specialist will listen to your symptoms; so be sure to tell him or her what they are, when and how often they occur, how long they last and what, if anything, helps.
 
The doctor may order blood work, including a complete blood count to check for anemia, an indicator of bleeding in the GI tract. Also, he or she may wish to look into your intestine via colonoscopy. This common examination introduces a lighted, flexible tube through the entire length of the large intestine. It allows the doctor to visualize and take photos of the lining of the bowel and to biopsy areas as needed.
 
Treatments for IBS
 
If you are diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you can manage your symptoms. No, IBS cannot be cured, but rest assured that many patients live well with this GI condition. Many gastroenterologists ask individuals to eliminate suspect foods such as:
  • Alcohol
  • Dairy products
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated drinks
  • High fat or fried foods
On the positive side, you may gradually increase your intake of fibrous dietary choices such as:
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Oats
  • Bran
  • Yams
  • Whole grains
  • Barley
The doctor may recommend easy-to-take fiber supplements such as Fibercon or Metamucil which regulate the water in the bowel and normalize stools. Probiotics--natural supplements containing beneficial bacteria and yeast--are a common part of an IBS regimen.
 
Feeling better
 
If you suspect you have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or are just not sure what's going on with your digestive health, consult a board-certified gastroenterologist. This highly-skilled doctor will get to the source of your issues, answer your questions and help you function at your best.
 
By Southwest Gastroenterology
September 28, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Gallstones   Healthy Diet   Cancer  

Unfortunately, many of us eat the foods we crave before thinking about how it affects our digestive health. Your digestive health is directly impacted by the lifestyle you live and the foods you eat. Exercising, drinking water, and adding fiber all contribute to better digestive health. Here are five digestive problems that are caused by a poor diet.

1. GERD- GERD is a digestive disorder in which stomach acid or bile irritates the food pipe lining. Symptoms include heartburn, hoarseness, and trouble swallowing. Some foods and beverages are known to cause reflux. If you're at risk for GERD, avoid fatty foods, acidic foods, spicy foods, chocolate, and caffeinated beverages. Being overweight and obesity are also causes of GERD. 

2. Cancer- Diet can also directly affect your risk of stomach and bowel cancer. Some foods, such as processed and salt-preserved foods, and red meat can increase the risk of developing stomach and bowel cancer. While others, such as vegetables and fruits, are especially potent cancer fighters. Choosing whole-grain breads, cereals, and pastas instead of refined grains, and eating poultry, fish, or beans may also help lower your risk of stomach and bowel cancer.

3. Gallstones- Slimming down (if you're overweight) and changes to your diet may help prevent gallstones. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile inside the gallbladder. Because cholesterol plays a role in the development of gallstones, you should avoid eating too many foods that are high in saturated fat. Eating too many foods that are high in cholesterol and fat and not enough of a high-fiber diet can increase your risk of gallstones.

4. Ulcerative Colitis- Eating a high-fat diet increases the risk of developing ulcerative colitis. Ulcerative colitis is a digestive disease that results in inflammation and ulcers in your digestive tract. Symptoms of ulcerative colitis include fatigue, rectal bleeding, anemia, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and feeling an urgent need to take a bowel movement. It's a serious disease that can cause dangerous complications if you don't get the right treatment.

5. Diverticulosis- Diverticulosis is a condition in which protruding pockets develop in the digestive tract. These pouches form when high pressure inside the large intestine pushes against weak spots in the intestinal wall. A high-fiber diet will reduce the risk of developing diverticular disease. Symptoms of diverticulitis include abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloody stools, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Diverticulitis can become serious, requiring hospital admission.

We really are what we eat! Swap those poor eating habits over for better ones. A healthy diet provides important minerals, vitamins, and nutrients to keep the body healthy. You can start making proactive changes to your diet today that can benefit your digestive health now, and throughout your entire life.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
September 14, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Gallstones  

Gallstones are a very common problem. You're at risk of developing gallstones if you're overweight or obese, female, or 40 or over. Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile inside the gallbladder. Many people with gallstones are unaware that they have them, as they produce no or little symptoms. For some people, however, gallstones can cause problems. Here are four signs and symptoms of a gallstone. 

1. Abdominal Pain

Symptoms of a gallstone may include severe abdominal pain. This pain goes and comes back repeatedly. The pain often occurs after eating and can last a few hours before it resolves. Chronic, ongoing pain that persists beyond a few hours may also occur, and may indicate a severe gallbladder problem.

2. Referred Pain

Gallstone pain can cause referred pain to the upper back and right shoulder. The pain usually comes on suddenly and may last for several hours. Prescribed painkillers are used to relieve pain associated with gallstones. You may also be given advice about eating a healthy diet to help control the pain.

3. Jaundice

Jaundice is a symptom of gallstones. Jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes and skin due to high bilirubin levels. If a stone moves out of your gallbladder and one of your bile ducts and blocks the bile flow, jaundice occurs. Sometimes the gallstone passes from the bile duct on its own. If it doesn't, you may need to have gallbladder surgery.

4. Vomiting

A gallstone can cause nausea and vomiting, which may relieve some of the abdominal pressure and discomfort. Pain that occurs with appetite loss, nausea, vomiting, and a fever may suggest the presence of infection or inflammation of the gallbladder. Vomiting and diarrhea also occur with food poisoning and the flu, but the pain tends to come and go rather than be constant.

If you're experiencing the symptoms of a gallstone, you should notify your gastroenterologist right away. When a gallstone blocks your bile ducts, it can cause excruciating pain, which means you need emergency care right away.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
August 29, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Diarrhea  

Diarrhea is very common. When you have diarrhea, your bowel movements are loose and watery. In most cases, diarrhea lasts a couple of days. Chronic diarrhea is diarrhea that lasts longer than two weeks. When diarrhea lasts for weeks, it can indicate a serious disorder. Although diarrhea is usually not serious, it can become dangerous or signal a more serious problem. Read on to find out how chronic diarrhea is treated.

1. Replacing lost fluids- Chronic diarrhea is treated by replacing lost fluids and electrolytes to prevent dehydration. Adults with diarrhea should drink water, sports drinks, sodas without caffeine, or fruit juices. Fluid can also be delivered through a vein (intravenously) if the dehydration is severe. 

2. The use of medication- Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics and medications that target parasites to treat parasitic or bacterial infections. If a virus is causing your diarrhea, antibiotics won't help. Pain relief medications can help alleviate fever and pain. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to treat an underlying condition that may be causing your chronic diarrhea.

3. Treating medical conditions- How doctors treat chronic diarrhea depends on the cause. Chronic diarrhea is sometimes caused by an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. Common conditions that cause diarrhea include irritable bowel syndrome, Chrohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, and chronic pancreatitis. 

4. The use of probiotics- Your doctor may recommend probiotics to treat diarrhea. Probiotics are good bacteria that are very similar to the bacteria that are already in your body. Probiotics reduce the growth of harmful bacteria and promote a healthy digestive system. If your gastroenterologist recommends probiotics, talk with him or her about how much probiotics you should take and for how long. 

Chronic diarrhea can affect your daily activities and make life frustrating and miserable. Don't hesitate to contact a gastroenterologist about diarrhea. A visit to the gastroenterologist will bring all the relief you need, with little hassle or expense. 

By Southwest Gastroenterology
August 14, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Constipation  

Having trouble going to the bathroom? Find out what might be to blame.

Constipation is an annoying and embarrassing problem that all of us will experience at some point. Constipation is when you are unable to have a bowel movement or you have trouble passing stools. If you are having less than three bowel movements a week then you could be dealing with constipation.

This problem isn’t usually something to worry about, as it usually resolves itself on its own. Of course, there are times in which you may want to turn to a gastroenterologist for care.

What causes constipation?

This usually happens when the stool moves too slowly through the digestive tract, making it difficult to expel. Causes of constipation include:

  • Dehydration
  • Poor diet
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Anal fissures
  • Bowel stricture (narrowing of the colon)
  • Conditions that affect the nerves of the colon or rectum (e.g. stroke; Parkinson’s disease)
  • Weak pelvic muscles
  • Hormone changes due to pregnancy, diabetes, or certain thyroid disorders

There are also certain factors that can increase your chances for chronic constipation:

  • Age (older adults are more likely to experience constipation)
  • Dehydration
  • Not getting enough fiber in your diet
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle
  • Taking certain medications (e.g. antidepressants; blood pressure medications)
  • Certain mental health disorders such as depression

How can you prevent constipation?

If you deal with constipation regularly there are some ways to help lessen the chances for this problem. Make sure that you are drinking enough water throughout the day and include a lot of fiber-rich foods in your diet such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans. Stay away from processed foods, and make sure you are staying active.

When should I see a doctor?

It’s a good idea to give your GI doctor a call if you’ve been experiencing constipation for over 3 weeks or if lifestyle modifications such as drinking more water or adding more fiber to your diet just aren’t working. It’s also important to see a specialist as soon as possible if your constipation is accompanied by pain or if you see blood on the toilet paper (this could be a sign of hemorrhoids or an anal fissure).

 

If you are experiencing chronic or severe constipation it’s a good idea to turn to a GI specialist who will help you get to the root of the problem and help get your digestive tract moving in the right direction.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
August 01, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Upper endoscopy  

This diagnostic procedure could determine the root cause of your digestive issues.

An upper endoscopy is a simple procedure in which your gastroenterologist will insert a small, flexible tube that contains a camera in the mouth and guide it carefully into the upper digestive tract (stomach and small intestines). Why is this outpatient procedure performed? Many reasons, actually. Your gastroenterologist may recommend getting this procedure if there are signs of bleeding within the upper digestive system.

An endoscopy is also a great tool for being able to detect inflammation within the digestive tract, as well as ulcers and tumors. You may benefit from an endoscopy if you are experiencing:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

An upper endoscopy is a much better and more accurate diagnostic tool for detecting growths and other abnormalities within the lining the digestive system than x-rays. Furthermore, many gastrointestinal issues can often be treated during the endoscopy. This includes the biopsy and/or removal of polyps, opening up narrowed areas of the esophagus or stomach, removing objects or obstructions within the intestinal tract or stopping a bleed.

Before your procedure, your gastroenterologist will give you detailed instructions to follow. This includes not eating or drinking anything for eight hours before your endoscopy. Patients with certain conditions such as a history of endocarditis (an infection of the heart valve) or those with artificial heart valves may need to take antibiotics beforehand to reduce their risk for an infection. Patients who take medications may still take their medication before the procedure with a little bit of water.

An endoscopy is performed under sedation so you won’t feel anything or remember the procedure. It’s important that you bring someone with you who will be able to drive you home afterwards, as sedation’s effects can last up to eight hours after. Prior to the procedure, a local anesthesia may be sprayed in the back of the throat to numb the area. You will then receive a combination or pain and sedation medication through an IV. Then the thin endoscope will be placed in the mouth and directed through the esophagus into the stomach. The procedure takes approximately 15-20 minutes.

 

If you are experiencing symptoms of bleeding, ulcers, or other issues within the digestive system, an endoscopy can be an amazing tool for determining what’s going on and what can be done to treat the problem.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
July 16, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Ulcerative Colitis  

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes severe and even bloody diarrhea that can result in abdominal pain and unexpected weight loss. While people have probably heard about Crohn’s disease more often than they have ulcerative colitis, this condition actually affects as many as 907,000 of the 1.6 million Americans living with IBD.

While ulcerative colitis can happen to anyone, a gastroenterologist most often diagnoses it during a person’s later teen years or by early adulthood. While there is no definitive cause of ulcerative colitis, a family history of this condition can certainly increase your chances of developing this chronic GI problem.

Those with ulcerative colitis experience diarrhea, which can be bloody at times. Some patients may experience rectal pain, occasional constipation, abdominal discomfort, fever, or weight loss. In order to diagnose this gastrointestinal issue, a GI specialist will often need to perform imaging tests such as a CT scan or run an endoscopy to check the health of the gastrointestinal tract and to look for signs of ulcerative colitis.

While there is currently no cure for this condition, there are certainly an array of medications and treatment options available to help you keep your symptoms and flare-ups in check. The type of treatment plan that your GI doctor will create for you will depend on the type and severity of your symptoms.

The main goals of treating ulcerative colitis are to reduce inflammation within the colon while also speeding up the remission process and making sure that your symptoms stay in remission for as long as possible. Of course, it is still possible, even with the right medication, to experience symptoms.

Common medications for treating ulcerative colitis include:

  • Antibiotics: to target any infections within the GI tract
  • Aminosalicylates: to treat mild to moderate inflammation within the colon
  • Corticosteroids: for short-term treatment of moderate to severe symptoms
  • Biologics: to target a specific protein, which leads to inflammation

Sometimes, over-the-counter medications and supplements may be used in conjunction with prescription medications. These may include vitamins and nutritional supplements, pain medications and antidiarrheal. If your ulcerative colitis doesn’t respond to these medications then you’ll want to discuss the benefits with your gastroenterologist of getting surgery to remove parts of the colon or rectum to alleviate severe or persistent symptoms.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
July 02, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: C. Diff   C. difficile  

C. difficile (Clostridium difficile) is an infection that should be talked about more often than it is despite the fact that it infects half a million Americans each year. While C. diff bacteria can be found within the gut of healthy individuals the healthy gut bacteria work to keep the potentially harmful bacteria in check. C. diff spores can be found in our environment through the air we breathe, or even the clothes on our back or the foods we consume. This is usually how we end up with C. diff in our guts.

However, sometimes circumstances arise in which C. diff bacteria are able to multiply within the gut. This most often occurs in someone who is taking antibiotics because while antibiotics are being used to fight an infection it can also kill off some of the healthy bacteria in our gut.

Unfortunately, C. diff bacteria are resistant to many kinds of antibiotics, giving it free range to thrive and multiply quickly within the gut. These bacteria, particularly in larger numbers, can also produce toxins. It’s usually the toxins themselves that lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, and fever.

C. diff infections can range from mild to severe. In milder cases, patients may liken their symptoms to an infection within the stomach (also known as gastroenteritis). These symptoms may be mild and self-limiting, lasting anywhere from a couple of days to multiple weeks. Usually, medication or treatment isn’t needed in order to treat the infection.

However, those dealing with severe diarrhea, blood in the stool, severe abdominal pain, fever, and dehydration should seek the care of a gastroenterologist as soon as possible. While these symptoms can be indicative of several different gastrointestinal issues, if you suspect that you might have a C. diff infection it’s important that you seek immediate medical treatment.

Since most people have C. diff within their gut, if it isn’t causing any issues then no treatment is necessary. As we mentioned before, those dealing with minor symptoms may be able to let the issue run its course. Those with severe infections may need to be hospitalized. If you are still taking the antibiotics that may have caused this problem then you will most likely need to stop taking it so that the healthy gut bacteria have a chance of returning and making the gut healthier.

Those with severe diarrhea or colitis (inflammation of the colon) may be prescribed very specific antibiotics known to kill the C. diff bacteria. In the meantime, make sure you are drinking enough water and fluids to keep your body hydrated. If diarrhea is severe, your doctor may need to give you fluids and nutrients through an IV.

Luckily, most people dealing with this infection will be able to fully recover, even if they don’t get treatment; however, those who are older or have a weak immune system should seek medical attention as soon as possible if they suspect an infection. While symptoms can be unpleasant, they will usually go away in a few weeks.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
June 19, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Heartburn   GERD  

Do you find that most mealtimes end up being ruined by gnawing, nagging heartburn? While most people will experience heartburn at some point during their lifetime, if you are someone who suffers from this problem several times a week then you may just have a digestive disorder known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

 

What is GERD?

Whenever you eat food, it travels from the esophagus to the stomach. Once food enters the stomach, the stomach produces acid to break up the food. Of course, in healthy individuals the food travels from the stomach to the intestines; however, if you have GERD then the acid and food contents actually flow back up to the esophagus from the stomach, irritating the lining of the throat and causing a nasty case of heartburn.

 

What are the symptoms?

Heartburn is a classic symptom of GERD. Heartburn is a burning in the chest that also affects the lining of the throat. Heartburn sometimes produces an acidic or bitter taste in the mouth. Symptoms may get worse if you eat a big meal, consume something spicy or lie down immediately after eating.

 

How is GERD diagnosed?

In some situations a gastroenterologist may be able to determine that you have GERD based on the symptoms you describe and through a simple physical exam; however, sometimes a diagnostic test is required in order to determine whether your symptoms are truly caused by GERD or something else. An upper endoscopy is one common diagnostic procedure performed to check for signs of inflammation or damage to the lining of the esophagus, which are indicative of GERD.

 

What are my treatment options?

Your treatment plan will most likely consist of lifestyle modifications and medications.

 

Lifestyle modifications

If you are overweight or obese you may be at a higher risk for developing GERD. It’s important to lose that excess weight and to maintain a healthy weight to reduce your symptoms. Quit smoking if you are currently a smoker. Make sure to eat slowly and eat smaller meals. Don’t lie down immediately after eating and eat about three hours before going to bed.

 

Also, there are certain foods that can trigger heartburn symptoms including chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, tomato sauce, garlic, or fatty and spicy foods. Limit or avoid any of these foods if they are known to cause you heartburn.

 

Medication

Those with milder symptoms may be able to use an over-the-counter antacid or medication to manage their symptoms; however, if symptoms are moderate-to-severe, or if you have damage to the lining of the esophagus, then you’ll need a stronger medication to reduce or even prevent the production of stomach acid until the damage has healed.

 

If you deal with heartburn on a regular basis or can’t seem to get heartburn under control it’s important that you turn to a GI doctor who can help you find the proper treatment option to prevent digestive complications and to make mealtimes more enjoyable again.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
June 05, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Hepatitis C  

Hepatitis C is an infectious disease that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. Most people have no symptoms right after they have been infected, and since any symptoms are likely to go away in a few weeks, you may not know you have Hepatitis C for a long time. Here are the most common signs of Hepatitis C.

1. Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowish appearance of the whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels. Normally bilirubin gets broken down in the liver and released from the body in the stool. But if the liver is damaged, it cannot properly process bilirubin.

2. Dark Urine

Urine naturally has some yellow pigments called urobilin or urochrome. The color of the urine can vary when certain medications are taken and when foods of certain types are consumed. Chronic dark-colored urine can be related to serious liver conditions, including Hepatitis C and cirrhosis.

3. Chronic Fatigue

The severity of this fatigue differs from person to person. Some individuals are able to work, but then feel burned out in the evening. Some people spend a large amount of time sleeping. However, someone people feel very tired after a good night's sleep. The fatigue associated with Hepatitis C often improves with treatment.

4. Aches and Pains

Some people with Hepatitis C experience abdominal pain. Many suffer from aches and pains in their joints. A variety of different joints can be involved but the most common are in the wrists and hands. The pains can range from mild to severe. In such cases, medications can be used to ease the pain.

5. Poor Appetite

Loss of appetite implies that hunger is absent. Your appetite may worsen if you have cirrhosis or liver failure. Loss of appetite can also be caused by other diseases and conditions. Some of the conditions can be temporary, such as appetite loss from the effects of medication.

6. Low-grade Fever

Everyone gets a fever from time to time. Most usually don't indicate anything serious. However, some people with Hepatitis C experience a low-grade fever (fever up to 102°F). You should book an appointment with a doctor if you've had a fever for more than three days.

7. Cognitive Changes

Some people with Hepatitis C experience problems with concentration, short-term memory, and completing complex mental tasks such as mental arithmetic. Studies have shown that about half of those with Hepatitis C experience cognitive disturbances.

Many people are surprised to learn that they have been infected with Hepatitis C. Some people feel overwhelmed by the changes they need to make in their lives. At a time when life feels out of control, remember that you can take an active role in your health- and your life.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
May 01, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Colonoscopy  

Chances are good you’ve heard of a colonoscopy before, whether through a health report on the news or because you know someone who had toColonoscopy get one. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure and often a screening tool that allows your gastroenterologist to be able to see what the lining of the colon and intestines looks. A thin scope is inserted into the rectum and carefully directed through the lower intestines. The scope has a camera at the end that allows your doctor to pinpoint potential problems with the lining of the intestines or colon. There are a few reasons why your doctor might recommend getting a colonoscopy.

If a patient comes in complaining of abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or persistent diarrhea and these symptoms can’t be explained through a routine exam and testing then your GI doctor may recommend performing a colonoscopy to be able to determine the root cause for these symptoms. This might be particularly helpful if you or a family member has a history of colon cancer or colon polyps.

Even if you are feeling fine, both men and women, once they reach 50-years-old, will need to start getting routine colonoscopies to screen for colon polyps and other signs of colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is one of the most effective screening tools a gastroenterologist has for being able to pinpoint warning signs of cancer with the large intestines and colon. No other screening tool will be able to provide the detailed imaging that a colonoscopy can.

If the results of your routine colonoscopy come back normal then you probably won’t need to repeat the procedure for another 10 years. If one or more polyps were detected during your colonoscopy your GI specialist may choose to remove them during the procedure but may recommend that you come in more regularly for a colonoscopy.

You may also need to have this procedure performed more often if you have a family or personal history of colon cancer or colon polyps. It’s important to be upfront about your detailed medical history when talking to a gastrointestinal specialist to determine the best colonoscopy schedule to protect your digestive health.

No matter if you are experiencing distressing intestinal symptoms or you just turned 50-years-old, it’s a good idea to turn to a gastrointestinal specialist who can provide you with the individualized care you need. Remember, getting a colonoscopy after you turn 50 could just end up saving your life!

By Southwest Gastroenterology
April 13, 2018
Category: GI Care

Gastroenterologists, also called GI doctors, are concerned with a wide array of issues involving the digestive system. One concern for gastroenterologists is precancerous polyps in the colon, rectum and other areas of the intestinal tract. It’s wise to be informed about polyps and how they may affect your gastroenterological and overall health.

What Are Precancerous Polyps?
A polyp is a small, fleshy nodule that forms on the inside of the intestines or colon. It is considered an abnormal growth, but in many cases, they are found to be benign (commonly in the early stages). However, over time polyps can become large and malignant if they aren’t treated. Many polyps are found to be pre-cancerous, which means they have the potential to turn cancerous if they aren’t removed. With early detection through an endoscopic test, the risk can be eliminated by your gastroenterologist.

What Are the Potential Causes?
Doctors aren’t definitively sure what causes polyps to form, but there are a number of theories. Here are a few:

  • Heredity (a family history of colon or intestinal problems) or certain hereditary conditions
  • Poor diet or lack of nutrition
  • Lack of exercise and regular physical activity
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diagnosis of ulcerative or Crohn’s colitis
  • The natural aging process for some patients (which is why regular exams are recommended after age 50)

What to Do About Them
The good news is that precancerous polyps can usually be quickly and effectively treated by your gastroenterologist. They are diagnosed through an exam called a virtual colonoscopy. A tube called a fiber-optic scope is inserted into the rectum that can identify the presence of a polyp and take a sample for a biopsy. If it is precancerous, your GI doctor can remove the polyp at another colonoscopy appointment. You should make this polyp removal appointment a priority.

Make an Appointment with a Gastroenterologist
The health of your digestive and elimination system is crucial to your overall health. Whether you’re in need of an initial endoscopic test to check for polyps or you’ve already been diagnosed with a precancerous polyp, call a gastroenterologist in your area for an appointment.

By Southwest Gastroenterology
April 03, 2018
Category: GI Care
Tags: Gastroenterology  

When it comes to matters involving your digestive tract, stomach, and colon, a gastroenterologist is the doctor to consult with. GI specialists also help patientsGastroenterology with matters involving the pancreas, gallbladder, liver and other organs involved in the elimination of waste. Here are some of the most common frequently asked questions that patients have for gastroenterologists.

What Does a Gastroenterologist Do?
A gastroenterologist is tasked with studying, managing and treating disorders involving the gastrointestinal tract. They diagnose potential problems that stand in the way of your body’s ability to comfortably and easily digest food, move it through the body and get rid of waste. It’s important that your gastrointestinal system is healthy so that your body absorbs the nutrition it needs for energy and vitality. GI doctors undergo rigorous training in this specialized area of medicine for five or six years after medical school.

What Tests Are Needed?
There are a number of tests that a gastroenterologist may recommend depending on your digestive concerns. Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Colonoscopy (checks rectum, colon, and intestinal tract)
  • Upper GI endoscopy (checks esophagus and upper gastro system)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (similar to a colonoscopy, but only examines a portion of the colon)
  • Endoscopic or abdominal ultrasound
  • Abdominal Angiogram
  • CT enterography

What Treatments Are Administered?
If a problem is identified in the gastrointestinal tract or system, there are a number of possible solutions your GI doctor may explore:

  • Polyp removal (done with an endoscope)
  • Esophageal, colonic, duodenal or bile duct stent placement (allows the comfortable passage of bodily fluids, solids, and waste)
  • Cecostomy (clears bowels)
  • Surgical procedures (such as bowel surgery, appendectomy, colostomy, proctectomy, gastric bypass surgery, etc)

Ask More Questions at Your Initial Appointment
Whatever specific questions you may have for a gastroenterologist, they are best addressed at your first visit. You should make this important appointment when recommended by your primary physician or when you have symptoms of a GI problem (bleeding, chronic constipation or diarrhea, heartburn and similar concerns), Call a gastroenterologist in your area to schedule a consultation today.