Acid Reflux (Heartburn): Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth & stomach (esophagus). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Chronic and untreated acid reflux can lead to Barrett’s esophaguses and esophageal cancer.
Gas and Bloating: While some gas and bloating is normal, excessive burping, passing gas, cramps, fullness, and pain in the abdomen can all be a sign of underlying medical conditions. There are common foods and other dietary factors that may contribute to bloating but this could indicate a chronic infection such as H. pylori, bacterial overgrowth, celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulosis or constipation.
Belching: burping and belching, also called eructation, can be increased by certain foods and behaviors. Common causes include hiatal hernia, acid reflux or heartburn, or chronic H. pylori infection. Diet and behavior modifications can help, but further studies are often required to rule out underlying medical conditions.
H. pylori: Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that is estimated to affect two-thirds of the world’s population and approximately 40-50 percent of people along the Texas-Mexico border like the Rio Grande Valley. Common symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, belching, nausea and loss of appetite. Chronic H. pylori infection can lead to ulcers in your stomach and small bowel, and eventually cause stomach cancer. It is recognized as a class I carcinogen by the WHO (World Health Organization). H. pylori can be treated with a two week course of medications.
Nausea & Vomiting: Nausea or vomiting may be caused by food poisoning, gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), an ulcer, certain medications, intestinal blockage or obstruction, or an eating disorder. While medications are often helpful to treat nausea, many patients will require further studies such as imaging (X-rays, ultrasound, or CT scan), or an upper endoscopy (EGD).
Difficulty Swallowing: People who have a hard time swallowing or feel as if their food gets stuck on the way down may have underlying problems in the esophagus. Usually an upper endoscopy (EGD) is required to make an accurate diagnosis and sometimes a balloon dilation (stretching) is necessary. Some people have a different kind of trouble swallowing in which they experience choking or aspiration which may require imaging such as a swallow study X-ray.
Unexplained Weight Loss: Causes of weight loss include, but are not limited to viral infection, malignancy (cancer), gastroenteritis, parasite infection, bowel diseases, and overactive thyroid . Abnormal weight loss frequently requires imaging (CT scan) and upper and lower endoscopy (EGD).
Diarrhea or Constipation: a change in bowel habits such as diarrhea (watery or loose stools) or constipation (hard or infrequent stools), can indicate underlying intestinal problems such as: infection, bacterial overgrowth, diverticulosis, colon polyps and colon cancer. While medications are often helpful to treat these symptoms, many patients will require stool studies or colonoscopy to identify the underlying medical cause.
Colon Polyps: Small growths or tumors in the colon that could grow and turn into colon cancer later. All colon cancers first start as a colon polyp. Removing colon polyps during a colonoscopy prevents colon cancer.
Colon Cancer Screening: The best test for colon cancer screening is a colonoscopy because it allows for the detection and removal of colon polyps, thus preventing colon cancer during the same test. While there are other options such as stool tests or CT scans, these tests often miss colon polyps and they do not prevent colon cancer like a colonoscopy does. Removing colon polyps during a colposcopy is the only intervention that prevents colon cancer.
Rectal Bleeding: Refers to passage of bright red blood from the anus, often mixed with stool and/or blood clots. Rectal bleeding is a medical condition that arises from a disease process in the colon or rectum and should never be ignored. Often times a colonoscopy is required to evaluate and treat this condition.
Hemorrhoids: Hemorrhoids are dilated veins in the anus and rectum that cause discomfort, itching, thin stools, and rectal bleeding. Chronic hemorrhoids always require further evaluation and treatment. For recurrent bleeding hemorrhoids, we can perform hemorrhoid ligation treatment in our office.
Liver disease: Liver disease can be inherited (genetic) or caused by a variety of factors that damage the liver, such as viruses, autoimmune disorders and alcohol use. Obesity is also associated with liver damage. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common form of chronic liver disease in the U.S, and it is especially prevalent in South Texas. Lab tests and imaging are often required to asses the extent and severity of the chronic liver disease. A non-invasive Fibroscan test can be performed in our office to determine if liver fibrosis (scarring) or cirrhosis is present.
Gallstones: Your gallbladder is a small organ on the right side of your abdomen, just beneath your liver. The gallbladder holds a digestive fluid called bile that is released into your small intestine. Gallstones are hardened deposits of digestive fluid that can form in your gallbladder. Gallstones can cause symptoms such as pain in the upper abdomen sometimes radiating to the back, and nausea/vomiting. Sometimes gallstones can cause complications or recurrent symptoms which may require surgical removal of the gallbladder. While we are not surgeons, our doctors can remove gallstones that are stuck in the common bile duct with a procedure called an ERCP
Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is inflammation in the pancreas, which is an organ that sits tucked behind the stomach in the upper abdomen. Pancreatitis can be acute pancreatitis (sudden onset & lasting for days) or a chronic condition which can last for months or years. Severe cases can cause life threatening complications. Symptoms include upper abdominal pain, fever, rapid pulse, and vomiting. Common causes of acute pancreatitis include gallstones, alcohol, elevated triglycerides, certain medications, autoimmune conditions, or a congenital abnormality of the pancreas.
Hepatitis: Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. The liver is an important organ that processes nutrients, filters the blood & helps your body fight infections. When the liver is inflamed or damaged it may not function at 100%. Heavy alcohol use, toxins, some medications, autoimmune conditions, and acute and chronic infections such as Hepatitis A, B, C, D, and E can cause hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis can eventually lead to cirrhosis (liver failure) and liver cancer.