The Institute for Digestive Health performs a variety of procedures and services related to digestive health.  For detailed information on these items and conditions, please click.  If you have further questions, contact us.

Colonoscopy
Colonoscopy is a test that examines the inner lining of the large intestine (rectum and colon). A thin, flexible tube called a colonoscope is inserted to look at the colon. A colonoscopy helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors, and areas of inflammation or bleeding. During a colonoscopy, tissue samples can be collected (if a biopsy is needed) and removal of abnormal growths is performed. Colonoscopy can also be used as a screening test to check for cancer or precancerous growths (called polyps) in the colon or rectum.

Colon Cancer Screening
Beginning at age 50, both men and women at average risk for developing colorectal cancer should be screened with a colonoscopy (every 10 years) or flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years). The tests that are designed to find both early cancer and polyps are preferred if these tests are available and you are willing to have one of these more invasive tests. Talk to your doctor about which test is best.  If any of these colorectal cancer risk factors are identified, screenings may need to be done earlier or more often:   

  • a personal history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
  • a personal history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis)
  • a strong family history of colorectal cancer or polyps (cancer or polyps in a first-degree relative [parent, sibling, or child] younger than 60 or in 2 or more first-degree relatives of any age)
  • a known family history of hereditary colorectal cancer syndromes

Barrett’s Esophagus
Barrett's esophagus is a condition in which the color and composition of the cells lining the lower esophagus become abnormal, often due to repeated exposure to stomach acid.  The affected tissue is replaced by tissue similar to the lining of the intestine (intestinal metaplasia).  A diagnosis of Barrett's esophagus means an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer. Monitoring and treatment of Barrett's esophagus includes regular exams to find precancerous esophagus cells, and if necessary, treat them to prevent esophageal cancer.

Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux, is a condition in which the liquid content of the stomach regurgitates (backs up or refluxes) into the esophagus. The liquid can inflame and damage the lining of the esophagus although visible signs of inflammation occur in a minority of patients. The regurgitated liquid usually contains acid and pepsin (an enzyme) that are produced by the stomach. The refluxed liquid also may contain bile that has backed-up into the stomach from the duodenum. Acid, pepsin and bile can inflame the esophagus.  The esophagus cannot protect itself from acid damage like the stomach can.  GERD is a chronic condition; injury to the lining of the esophagus may also be chronic. 

Intestinal Bleeding and Anemia
Gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding refers to bleeding that starts in the gastrointestinal tract, (area from mouth to anus).  This can be minor bleeding all the way to massive (life-threatening), and can be upper GI bleeding or lower GI bleeding.  If bleeding continues         for a long period of time, it can lead to loss of iron, causing anemia.  This causes the destruction of red blood cells and can be life-threatening because of a weakened immune system.  Once a bleeding area is defined, various therapies can stop the bleeding.

Abdominal Pain
Abdominal pain is felt between the chest and groin. Pain can originate from such areas as the end of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, aorta, appendix, kidneys and spleen…or other places like the chest or pelvis.  Pain can be localized to one area, or generalized.  If home treatment does not work, a doctor needs to be consulted.  The pain could be a symptom of a more serious disorder.

Pancreatic and Biliary Tract Disease
Problems related to the liver, bile duct and pancreas can range from benign and malignant tumors of the liver, through benign strictures and malignant cancers of the bile duct to pancreatitis and pancreatic tumors.  Sometimes there may be stones that form as obstructions in the bile ducts.  There are many state-of-the-art approaches to manage these problems.

Hepatitis C
This infectious disease affects the liver and is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV).  As it progresses, the disease can scar the liver (cirrhosis), which can lead to liver failure or liver cancer in some cases.  The disease is spread by blood-to-blood contact.  It can last many years, and in some cases require a liver transplant.

Liver Disease
The liver is a large, vital organ that helps protect the body from poisonous substances, regulates blood clotting, helps fight infection and other important functions.  Liver disease can be caused by infection, injury, exposure to drugs or toxic compounds, an autoimmune disorder or a genetic defect that can build up harmful substances.  These things can lead to hepatitis, cirrhosis, stones that develop and form blockages and in some cases, liver cancer.

Gallstones
Gallstones are small, pebble-like substances that form in the gall bladder. Gallstones
develop when liquid (bile) stored in the gall bladder hardens into pieces of stone-like material because it contains too much cholesterol, bile salts, or bilirubin.  If any of the bile ducts remain blocked for a long time, severe damage or infection can occur in the gall bladder, liver or pancreas. The condition can even be fatal if left untreated. 

Swallowing Difficulties
If difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) is a regular occurrence, it could mean a serious medical condition that requires treatment.   It is most common in older adults.  It can range from a sensation that food is stuck in the throat to an inability to swallow food at all.  Besides food, such difficulty can be caused by blockages due to spinal disease, or nerve and muscle problems. 

Nutritional Problems
These include metabolic disorders (such as obesity, anorexia and bulimia) and vitamin deficiencies (calcium, iron, etc.).  Some of these can lead to diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, cancer and other diseases.  Most result as a deprivation or over-indulgence of certain nutrients.  Vitamins, behavior modification and other treatments can help in some cases, but a doctor is needed if there are more severe symptoms.

Diarrhea or Constipation
In most cases, diarrhea will go away on its own. But if it persists, diarrhea can lead
to dehydration or a more serious problem.  Some causes may be lactose intolerance, food poisoning, diverticulitis, gall bladder disease, pancreatitis, Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  The same is true with severe or chronic constipation (fewer than three bowel movements a week).  This may be caused by blockages or other factors and needs to be assessed by a doctor, especially if accompanied by rectal bleeding, nausea or abdominal pain.

Hemorrhoids/Rectal Bleeding
Hemorrhoids are internal masses of tissues along the anal canal that can cause severe pain when enlarged.  They can range in degrees of severity.  Rectal bleeding can also result from this, or from other causes that could be more serious.  A physician can help with treatment of these problems.

Anemia
The most common blood disorder, anemia is a reduction in the normal number of blood cells.  It can range from mild to severe, and can cause tiredness from lack of oxygen if blood does not adequately carry oxygen to the tissues.  Anemia is typically caused by a decrease in red blood cell production, loss of blood, vitamin deficiencies or bone marrow diseases.  Beyond taking supplements such as iron, the condition may require medical treatment.

Ulcers
These are sores on the lining of the digestive tract, typically located in the duodenum (first part of the intestine). These ulcers are called duodenal ulcers. Ulcers located in the stomach are called gastric ulcers. Ulcers in the esophagus are called esophageal ulcers.  The most common cause of an ulcer is an infection from bacteria and can be aggravated if the body makes too much acid and burns the digestive tract lining.  Other causes include medications like aspirin, ibuprofen, Motrin, naproxen aod Aleve.  Stress also can cause a flare-up.  Most ulcers can be treated with prescribed medications, but serious  complications can result if not examined.

Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
Both Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis are forms of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).  The locations of these chronic diseases differ in that Crohn’s Disease inflammations occur along the digestive tract from the anus to the mouth, and Ulcerative Colitis only affects the large intestine (colon area) although some UC patients have inflammation in the ileum area (last section of the small intestine before the colon).  CD patients have pain in the lower left part of the abdomen, while UC patients have pain in the lower right area of the abdomen.  CD is an autoimmune disease and its cause is unknown; the body’s immune system attacks the gastrointestinal tract.  Medical treatment can control symptoms and help prevent relapses.  The cause of UC is also unknown.  Like CD, symptoms and remissions can appear throughout life.  In some cases,
severe complications can arise for both diseases.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is an intestinal disorder in which the movement of the digestive tract is impaired, yet there is no evidence of inflammation or tumors.  The cause may be various foods, stress, hormonal changes and even antibiotics.  Symptoms include stomach pain, cramping or bloating, and diarrhea or constipation. Chronic in nature, patients suffer off and on, but IBS does not worsen over time.  Some medications may ease the symptoms.