6 Signs It’s Time To Visit A Gastroenterologist

Gastroenterology is the study of the gastrointestinal tract or GI system. The GI system is made up of organs like the stomach and intestines, which break down food and absorb nutrients for digestion. Each year, more than 62 million Americans are diagnosed with a digestive disorder. With many different conditions affecting this system, it’s important to understand the signs that it’s time to visit a gastroenterologist.

Visiting A Gastroenterologist

If you’re looking for someone to address your digestive issues, a gastroenterologist can help. The field covers a broad range of topics and conditions, including colon cancer, hepatitis, cirrhosis, pancreatitis, GERD, IBS, chronic constipation, diarrhea, and IBD. Gastroenterologists work with patients to determine the underlying causes of disease and then develop an effective treatment plan using these diagnostic tools. At Birmingham Gastroenterology, we have compiled a list of 6 signs that it may be time to visit a gastroenterologist. 

  1. Painful Abdominal Bloating

Although abdominal pain is normal from time to time, should your bloating persist, it may be time to visit a gastroenterologist. There are a number of causes for painful abdominal bloating, some of which can be fixed with lifestyle changes and others that may require additional treatment. The root of abdominal bloating may be due to lactose intolerance, acid reflux, constipation, indigestion, gallstones, hernia, Crohn’s disease, and more.   

  1. Persistent Diarrhea

Diarrhea can come and go without an underlying cause. However, diarrhea that persists for more than 48 hours with little or no improvement may be a sign it’s time to visit your gastroenterologist. Some underlying diseases that can cause abnormal bowel movements include irritable bowel syndrome, malabsorption, ulcerative colitis, and more. 

  1. Chronic Constipation

On the opposite side of diarrhea is chronic constipation. Constipation is generally defined as having three or fewer bowel movements per week. These bowel movements may often be small amounts of dry, hard stool that can be accompanied by pain. Some main causes of constipation include eating a diet that’s low in fiber, a sedentary lifestyle, certain medications (such as sedatives or antidepressants), and dehydration. 

  1. Rectal Bleeding

In some cases, rectal bleeding can be a symptom of minor conditions that can be treated, such as hemorrhoids. However, rectal bleeding can also signify more serious conditions such as colorectal cancer. If you experience rectal bleeding, it is always recommended to visit a gastroenterologist. 

  1. Trouble Swallowing

Trouble swallowing, also known as dysphagia, often presents itself as difficulty swallowing foods or liquids and can range from mild difficulty to complete blockage. Other symptoms that are associated with dysphagia include drooling, hoarseness, regurgitation, frequent heartburn, weight loss, and coughing or gagging while swallowing. You should visit a gastroenterologist if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, as treatment is available.   

  1. Long-Term Heartburn

Long-term heartburn is categorized as when an individual experiences heartburn more than twice a week and interferes with their daily routine. This also can be considered gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Symptoms of GERD include 

  • A burning sensation in your chest.
  • Backwash (regurgitation) of food or sour liquid.
  • Upper abdominal or chest pain.
  • Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat.

If you are enduring any of the symptoms, it may be time to visit a gastroenterologist. Treatments for GERD include lifestyle and dietary changes, medication, endoscopic therapy, or surgery.  

If you are struggling with any of the conditions listed above, you should seek medical attention from a GI specialist for evaluation and treatment. The team at Birmingham Gastroenterology has decades of experience treating diseases and disorders in all parts of the digestive system. If you have questions about gastroenterology or if you have more questions about signs it’s time to visit a gastroenterologist, call us at (205) 271-8000 to make an appointment.

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