People who have problems with their digestive system, which includes the gullet/oesophagus, stomach, colon/large intestines, small intestines and rectum, may be required to see a gastroenterologist. This may also be the case if you have problems with your gall bladder, bile duct, liver or pancreas. You may not really know that you are supposed to see a gastroenterologist, which is why most of the time patients are referred to them by their general or family doctors.
What Does a Gastroenterologist Actually Do?
A gastroenterologist is extensively trained to research, understand and carefully handle matters pertaining to the functions and diseases that affect the gastrointestinal organs. What does the normal functioning of the gastrointestinal organs entail? The gastroenterologist will be well-versed with the movement of solid food or liquids from your mouth through your gullet to your stomach and intestines. This will also include the absorption of nutrients and removal of waste. As for the pancreas and liver, the gastroenterologist will be interested in their role as digestive organs.
What are these diseases? The gastroenterologist will be able to diagnose and treat heartburn — also known as gastroesophageal reflux — irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), nutritional problems, colitis, hepatitis, colon polyps, gall bladder disease, peptic ulcer disease, pancreatitis, cancer etc.
You can also expect a gastroenterologist to carry out an endoscopy, but not for all conditions. An endoscopy can either be an upper endoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy, where a narrow tube with a camera is used to view your digestive/intestinal tract. Do not be worried about this procedure as the gastroenterologist is fully trained to make you comfortable and pain- or discomfort-free.
What Are Some of the Symptoms That Could Suggest You Will See a Gastroenterologist?
If you are experiencing heartburn, oesophageal pain, loss of appetite and weight, lethargy, dark- or pale-coloured urine, diarrhoea, rectal bleeding, excessive gas, abdominal pain, belching, bloating, leakage (underwear stains), frequent vomiting, hard-to-control bowel movements etc., you may end up seeing a gastroenterologist. However, you will need to see your general doctor first. The doctor will decide whether he or she can treat you or if you will need to see a specialist.
Why See a Gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a specialist. Though your general physician may have some experience in matters affecting gastrointestinal organs, he or she may not be fully qualified. With gastroenterologists, you are guaranteed quality and accurate diagnosis and treatment. There will also be minimal to no complications during tests or procedures.
With the above information, you can have a kind of understanding of what gastroenterology entails.