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Constipation

Constipation is one of the most frequent gastrointestinal complaints in the USA and Western countries. There are at least 2.5 million doctor visits for constipation in the USA each year, and hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on laxatives yearly.

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Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease, or Ulcerative colitis (UC), is a disease marked by inflammation of the lining of the colon and rectum, together known as the large intestine. This inflammation causes irritation in the lining of the large intestine, which leads to the symptoms of UC. Though UC always affects the lowest part of the large intestine (the rectum), in some patients it can be present throughout the entire colon. UC belongs to a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel diseases, which also includes Crohn’s disease (CD). Though it was once thought that UC and CD were two different diseases, as many as 10% of patients may have features of both diseases, and this is called indeterminate colitis. It is important to note that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

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Diarrhea

Acute diarrhea is one of the most commonly reported illnesses in the United States, second only to respiratory infections. Worldwide, it is a leading cause of mortality in children younger than four years old, especially in the developing world. Diarrhea that lasts less than 2 weeks is termed acute diarrhea. Persistent diarrhea lasts between 2 and 4 weeks. Chronic diarrhea lasts longer than 4 weeks.

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Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis refers to the presence of small out-pouchings (called diverticula) or sacs that can develop in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract. While diverticula can be present anywhere in the intestines, they are most common on the left side of the large intestine, the area known as the descending and sigmoid colon.

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Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are blood vessels (veins) in the anal canal. When those blood vessels become swollen or dilated, symptoms may develop. Many people have hemorrhoids, but have no symptoms. Hemorrhoids are very common and by age 50, nearly half of Americans have hemorrhoids. Nearly 5% of the US population (15,000,000 people) has sought medical care for symptomatic hemorrhoids. Many more have problems with hemorrhoids, but never seek formal medical attention.

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome

In the United States, it is estimated that 10-15 percent of the adult population suffers from IBS symptoms, yet only 5 to 7 percent of adults have been diagnosed with the disease. IBS is the most common disease diagnosed by gastroenterologists and one of the most common disorders seen by primary care physicians.

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Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a disease marked by inflammation of the lining of the colon and rectum, together known as the large intestine. This inflammation causes irritation in the lining of the large intestine, which leads to the symptoms of UC. Though UC always affects the lowest part of the large intestine (the rectum), in some patients it can be present throughout the entire colon. UC belongs to a group of diseases called inflammatory bowel diseases, which also includes Crohn’s disease (CD). Though it was once thought that UC and CD were two different diseases, as many as 10% of patients may have features of both diseases, and this is called indeterminate colitis. It is important to note that inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

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Rectal Bleeding

The rectum refers to the last four or five inches of the digestive tract. The rectal outlet or opening is called the anal canal or anus. Problems in this area are common, but many adults are too shy or embarrassed to ask their doctor about them. Fortunately, most of these problems are treatable when recognized early and properly diagnosed. Remember that symptoms of rectal pain or bleeding should always be thoroughly evaluated by your doctor.

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Colon Polyp/Cancer

A colon polyp is a small growth on the inner lining of the large intestine, some of which can progress into cancer. Polyps may be scattered throughout the colon and vary in size from a few millimeters to several centimeters. Polyps may have a flat or raised appearance. When raised they can resemble small bumps (called sessile), or even grow on short stalks (called pedunculated), resembling a mushroom or small cauliflower.

Although the vast majority of polyps are NOT cancerous or even pre-cancerous, it is important to detect colon polyps early because most cases of colon cancer develop from polyps.

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Celiac Disease

Celiac disease (CD) is a chronic (long-term) digestive disease during which patients have irritation (inflammation) of the small intestine, which causes difficulty with absorbing nutrients from food. Patients with CD often have other family members with the condition and are therefore susceptible to this disease. Inflammation in the intestine occurs when a patient with CD begins to eat food that contains gluten. Gluten is the name given to certain types of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and related grains. Oats are currently considered not to be dangerous to persons with CD. However, due to the high possibility of contamination with other gluten containing grains, oats are typically not recommended for people with celiac disease.

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Esophagitis and Stricture

Eosinophilic esophagitis (also known as EoE) is a disease characterized by the presence of a large number of a special type of white blood cell, the eosinophil, that can cause inflammation in the esophagus. This inflammation can lead to stiffening or narrowing of the esophagus, which can lead to difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or food getting stuck in the esophagus. Reflux of stomach acid contents into the esophagus can also cause eosinophils as well as inflammation in the esophagus. In EoE, the eosinophils are present even after acid reflux has been treated. Although eosinophils may be found in the rest of the gastrointestinal tract in a healthy person, when present in the esophagus, this usually suggests an abnormal condition. While other illnesses such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), parasitic diseases or inflammatory bowel disease may cause eosinophils in the esophagus, EoE is the most common cause of large numbers of eosinophils in the esophagus.

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Gallstones

Gallstone pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas that results from blockage of the pancreas duct by a gallstone. This occurs at the level of the sphincter of Oddi, a round muscle located at the opening of the bile duct into the small intestine. If a stone from the gallbladder should travel down the common bile duct and get stuck at the sphincter, it blocks outflow of all material from the liver and pancreas. This results in inflammation of the pancreas that can be quite severe. Gallstone pancreatitis can be a life-threatening disease and evaluation by a physician urgently is needed if someone with gallstones suddenly develops severe abdominal pain.

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Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis literally translated means “stomach paralysis”. Gastroparesis is a digestive disorder in which the motility of the stomach is either abnormal or absent. In healthy people, when the stomach is functioning normally, contractions of the stomach help to crush ingested food and then propel the pulverized food into the small intestine where further digestion and absorption of nutrients occurs. When the condition of gastroparesis is present the stomach is unable to contract normally, and therefore cannot crush food nor propel food into the small intestine properly. Normal digestion may not occur.

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GERD/Acid Reflux

To understand gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, it is first necessary to understand what causes heartburn. Most people will experience heartburn if the lining of the esophagus comes in contact with too much stomach juice for too long a period of time. This stomach juice consists of acid, digestive enzymes, and other injurious materials. The prolonged contact of acidic stomach juice with the esophageal lining injures the esophagus and produces a burning discomfort. Normally, a muscular valve at the lower end of the esophagus called the lower esophageal sphincter or “LES” — keeps the acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus. In gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD, the LES relaxes too frequently, which allows stomach acid to reflux, or flow backward into the esophagus.

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H. Pylori

Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) is a type of bacteria. These germs can enter your body and live in your digestive tract. After many years, they can cause sores, called ulcers, in the lining of your stomach or the upper part of your small intestine. For some people, an infection can lead to stomach cancer.

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Hiatal Hernia

Any time an internal body part pushes into an area where it doesn’t belong, it’s called a hernia.

The hiatus is an opening in the diaphragm — the muscular wall separating the chest cavity from the abdomen. Normally, the esophagus (food pipe) goes through the hiatus and attaches to the stomach. In a hiatal hernia (also called hiatus hernia) the stomach bulges up into the chest through that opening.

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Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance means the body cannot easily digest lactose, a type of natural sugar found in milk and dairy products. This is not the same thing as a food allergy to milk.

When lactose moves through the large intestine camera.gif (colon) without being properly digested, it can cause uncomfortable symptoms such as gas, belly pain, and bloating. Some people who have lactose intolerance cannot digest any milk products. Others can eat or drink small amounts of milk products or certain types of milk products without problems.

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Peptic Ulcer Disease

An “ulcer” is an open sore. The word “peptic” means that the cause of the problem is due to acid. Most of the time when a gastroenterologist is referring to an “ulcer” the doctor means a peptic ulcer.

The two most common types of peptic ulcer are called “gastric ulcers” and “duodenal ulcers”. These names refer to the location where the ulcer is found. Gastric ulcers are located in the stomach (see Figure 1). Duodenal ulcers are found at the beginning of the small intestine (also called the small bowel) known as the duodenum. A person may have both gastric and duodenal ulcers at the same time.

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Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis happens when too much iron builds up in the body, leading to damage of the liver and heart. The condition tends to run in families, but people sometimes get it from having a lot of blood transfusions, liver disease, or alcoholism, or from taking too many iron pills. Early symptoms include weakness, joint pain, belly pain, and a darkening of the skin. Blood tests will confirm a diagnosis. Treatments include having blood taken out of the body on a regular schedule and taking medicines called chelating agents. Follow the links below to find WebMD’s comprehensive coverage about what causes hemochromatosis, its symptoms, how to treat it, and much more.

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Primary Biliary Cholangitis

Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) used to be called primary biliary cirrhosis and is a type of liver disease caused by damage to the bile ducts in the liver. Much like other forms of liver disease, PBC permanently damages the liver as tissue is replaced with scar tissue (fibrosis). As more scar tissue develops, the structure and function of the liver are affected.

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Autoimmune Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, are distinct diseases that affect the liver and have different hepatitis symptoms and treatments. Other causes of hepatitis include recreational drugs and prescription medications. Hepatitis type is determined by laboratory tests.

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Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis develops when scar tissue replaces normal, healthy tissue in your liver. It happens after the healthy cells are damaged over a long period of time, usually many years.

The scar tissue makes the liver lumpy and hard, and after a while, the organ will start to fail. The scar tissue makes it tough for blood to get through a large vein (the portal vein) that goes into the liver.

When blood backs up into the portal vein, it can get into your spleen and cause trouble in that organ, too.

There’s no cure for cirrhosis except a liver transplant, but you and your doctor can slow cirrhosis down by treating whatever is causing it.

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Fatty Liver Disease

Some fat in your liver is normal. But if it makes up more than 5%-10% of the organ’s weight, you may have fatty liver disease. If you’re a drinker, stop. That’s one of the key causes of the condition.

There are two main types of fatty liver disease:

  • Alcoholic liver disease (ALD)
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

You can also get fatty liver disease during pregnancy.

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Hemochromatosis

Hemochromatosis happens when too much iron builds up in the body, leading to damage of the liver and heart. The condition tends to run in families, but people sometimes get it from having a lot of blood transfusions, liver disease, or alcoholism, or from taking too many iron pills. Early symptoms include weakness, joint pain, belly pain, and a darkening of the skin. Blood tests will confirm a diagnosis. Treatments include having blood taken out of the body on a regular schedule and taking medicines called chelating agents. Follow the links below to find WebMD’s comprehensive coverage about what causes hemochromatosis, its symptoms, how to treat it, and much more.

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Hepatitis A

If you have this infection, you have inflammation in your liver that’s caused by a virus. You don’t always get symptoms, but when you do, you might have:

  • Jaundice (yellow eyes and skin, dark urine)
  • Pain in your belly
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Children often have the disease with few symptoms.

You can spread the hepatitis A virus about 2 weeks before your symptoms appear and during the first week they show up, or even if you don’t have any.

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Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a virus that infects the liver. Most adults who get it have it for a short time and then get better. This is called acute hepatitis B.

Sometimes the virus causes a long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis B. Over time, it can damage your liver. Babies and young children infected with the virus are more likely to get chronic hepatitis B.

You can have hepatitis B and not know it. You may not have symptoms. If you do, they can make you feel like you have the flu. But as long as you have the virus, you can spread it to others.

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Hepatitis C

This infection of the liver is caused by the hepatitis C virus. About 3.5 million people in the U.S. have the disease. But it causes few symptoms, so most of them don’t know.

There are many forms of the hepatitis C virus. The most common in the U.S. is type 1. None is more serious than any other, but they respond differently to treatment.

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Pancreatic Disease

There are a variety of disorders of the pancreas including acute pancreatitis, chronic pancreatitis, hereditary pancreatitis, and pancreatic cancer.

The evaluation of pancreatic diseases can be difficult due to the inaccessibility of the pancreas. There are multiple methods to evaluate the pancreas. Initial tests of the pancreas include a physical examination, which is difficult since the pancreas is deep in the abdomen near the spine. Blood tests are often helpful in determining whether the pancreas is involved in a specific symptom but may be misleading. The best radiographic tests to evaluate the structure of the pancreas include CAT (computed tomography) scan, endoscopic ultrasound, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Tests to evaluate the pancreatic ducts include ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) and MRCP(magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography). There are also instances in which surgical exploration is the only way to confirm the diagnosis of pancreatic disease.

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