What exactly is a gastroenterologist?
Gastroenterologists are specialists in the area of medicine known as gastroenterology, which is the branch of medicine which focuses on the digestive system, or the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They treat diseases and conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to hepatitis C.
Primarily, to help with diagnosis and treatment, gastroenterologists perform endoscopic procedures – which use specialized instruments, usually equipped with a camera, to view the GI tract in real-time. Usually, they do not perform surgical procedures, although they may work with a surgeon who specializes in the GI tract and are usually found in either clinical or hospital settings.
While gastroenterology is a specialized field of medicine, the field can be further divided up, with some practitioners treating general diseases that affect the GI tract, while others may take a more specialized route. Some of the potential areas that a gastroenterologist may choose to specialize in include:
- Diseases of the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree, and pancreas;
- Pancreatic disease(s);
- Inflammatory bowel disease, or a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract;
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Endoscopic surveillance;
- Reflux esophagitis.
Why should I see a gastroenterologist?
If you are experiencing symptoms which may include abnormal bowel movements, rectal bleeding, frequent heartburn, abdominal pain or bloating, or are having trouble swallowing, then your primary care provider may refer or recommend that you see a gastroenterologist. Additionally, it is recommended that you see one regularly if you are old enough to be at risk for colorectal cancer, so that you may screened for the disease.
However, there are six major signs that indicate that you should consider scheduling an appointment or consultation with a gastroenterologist. They are listed below.
- If you experience abnormal bowel movements, such as constipation – where you pass fewer than three bowel movements a week – or if you have diarrhea that persists for more than a few days, it could be indicative of an underlying condition and a gastroenterologist can help with finding a cause and recommending or prescribing treatment options.
- If you experience rectal bleeding, this could be a sign of a number of conditions, ranging from an anal fissure, to hemorrhoids, or potentially cancer.
- If you experience frequent heartburn or acid reflux, you may potentially have a condition known as Gastroesophageal Reflex Disease, or GERD, which will need to be diagnosed and treated.
- If you are over the age of fifty, you should be regularly screened for colorectal cancer.
- If you experience abdominal pain and bloating after nearly every meal or if it is accompanied by nausea or painful bowel movements, you should inform your physician who will likely then refer you to see a gastroenterologist.
- If you experience frequent esophageal pain or have difficulty swallowing on a regular basis – or if the pain or difficult intensifies over time – you should see a gastroenterologist, who can perform a procedure known as an upper endoscopy to determine what the cause is and then administer proper treatment.
If you are in need of a gastroenterologist, either for pre-existing conditions or because you are in need of diagnosis for a GI tract issue, then our specialists at Vanguard Gastroenterology are here to help you. Please call us for more information or visit our website online to book your appointment. We serve patients from New York NY, Queens NY, Brooklyn NY, The Bronx NY, East Elmhurst NY, Ridgewood NY, Valley Stream NY, and Staten Island NY.