Do I Really Need a Gastroenterologist?

Do I Really Need a Gastroenterologist?

by Douglas Liantonio (SU)

Do you have stomach and digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, or heartburn? Perhaps your family has a history of colon cancer, or you have been diagnosed with Chron’s Disease or irritable bowel syndrome. If so, it may be time to see a gastroenterologist. Let’s talk about what gastroenterologists – GI doctors – do and what kinds of treatments they provide so you can have a better understanding of whether you need to see one to treat your condition.

What is a GI doctor?

A GI is a doctor whose training and experience are specialized in the management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Training to become a GI doctor includes medical school, three years post-medical school training as an internal medicine physician, and an additional 3-4 years of specialty training dealing solely with diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. GI doctors undergo intensive training in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, large bowel, liver, and pancreas. GI doctors are highly trained in endoscopic procedures such as colonoscopies and endoscopies. They are also trained to do procedures such as hemorrhoid banding.

Why would I visit a GI doctor?

Diseases of the GI tract can be complicated and, thus, are best treated by a doctor who has specialized training in diagnosing and treating these conditions. The following are some of the top reasons to visit a gastroenterologist:

Changes in Bowel Habits – If you notice a change in your bowel movements, whether frequency of visits or consistency or composition of stool – your gastroenterologist can determine whether or not it is an indicator of a larger digestive condition.

Rectal Bleeding – If you notice blood after a bowel movement – either in the toilet or from wiping – it most likely is caused by hemorrhoids; however, to be safe, your GI doctor can help rule out a more severe underlying cause.

Colon Cancer Detection – It takes anywhere from 10-15 years for a polyp to develop into colon cancer, making early detection the key to successful treatment. If colon cancer runs in your family, if you are considered at risk, or are over 50 years old, you should visit your GI doctor for a screening for colon cancer and maintain a schedule of follow-up as you get older.

Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – If you experience heartburn or reflux for longer than a few weeks, it’s time to visit a GI doctor to get to the root of the problem. Left untreated, these relatively harmless conditions can over time wear down the esophageal lining and cancer.

Stomach Bloating and Pain – Your GI doctor can help determine what is causing your pain and bloating.  It can be anything from a reaction to a medication, to stress, to your diet.

Inflammatory Bowel, Crohn’s or Ulcerative Colitis – These painful diseased of the digestive tract can manifest as a change in your bowel habits or severe pain.  For accurate diagnosis and treatment, you should see your GI doctor.

Hemorrhoids – If you’ve ever had a hemorrhoid, you know how uncomfortable and painful they can be. Hemorrhoids are more common than you think, but thankfully are easily treated by your gastroenterologist.

Other conditions- Other conditions that gastroenterologists see patients for include celiac disease, ulcers, polyps, gallbladder disease, and pancreatitis.

Living with GI pain is not living a full and happy life. The board-certified and fellowship-trained gastroenterologists at Anne Arundel Gastroenterology are here to serve you. We are dedicated to making a positive impact on each of our patients’ lives by providing the highest quality GI care in Anne Arundel County, and the surrounding areas. Please call our office at (410) 224-2116 or schedule an appointment online.