What does gastroenterologist mean?
The term is used for a professional in an area of medicine called gastroenterology. In this field, a practitioner’s focus is on the health of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, more commonly known as the digestive system, which includes the oral cavity, esophagus, rectum, stomach, intestines, and more. A gastroenterologist is able to treat conditions that affect the digestive system, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and others. You might need to have a consultation with a gastroenterologist if you’ve been having any issue or symptoms with your digestive system.
What happens at a gastroenterology consultation?
You can expect your initial evaluation with a gastroenterologist to take around 45 minutes. The doctor will ask you about your symptoms, medical history, family health history, and any treatments you’ve tried already. You should mention any medications you take and bring up allergies too.
During the examination, the doctor may ask you to lie down, and then will press down on the skin of your belly. You might be asked to cough or take deep breaths. If the doctor believes it’s necessary, they might look for any bulges or masses in your rectum and check for muscle tone. After the exam, the doctor may send you for an X-ray or CT scan, or for blood or stool tests. It’s possible that the doctor will test your motility too, which is how food moves through your digestive system. If necessary, the doctor may suggest additional tests like an endoscopy.
Often with patients, the only treatment necessary is a medication, and sometimes simple lifestyle changes can solve a patient’s problem. It may be that an acid reflux medication will help you, or possibly just a change to your diet.
What are the most common signs and symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders?
Some of the more common gastrointestinal disorders, or signs/symptoms of disorders, include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Acid reflux
- Bloody stool
- Hepatitis C
- Polyps or growths in the intestines
- Colon cancer
You may have to see a gastroenterologist if you:
- Are having abdominal pain (for severe and possibly life-threatening pain, call 911)
- Have blood in your stool that you can’t explain
- Have difficulty swallowing that you can’t explain
How do you know when to see a gastroenterologist?
If you’ve been experiencing some of the signs and symptoms we mentioned above, then it may be time to see a gastroenterologist. Or it might be time to see one regularly if you’re over the age of 50, as men and women at this age have an increased risk of getting colon cancer. Perhaps you have a family member with colon cancer; if so, you should speak with your doctor or a gastroenterologist about when to start getting screenings.
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