Conditions and Diseases of the GI Tract

This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Barrett’s esophagus

Barrett’s esophagus is a change in the part of the esophageal lining near the stomach caused by the reflux that occurs with GERD. The changed lining is not cancer but puts one at a higher risk for cancer, making routine monitoring important.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease damages the tiny hair like projections (villi) in the small intestine that are needed for nutrients from foods to be absorbed into the body. A person with celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye. When he or she eats gluten containing products, the immune system responds by damaging the villi. The person can develop severe diarrhea and become malnourished even if eating well.

Cirrhosis of the liver

Cirrhosis of the liver (Hepatic cirrhosis) is a condition that develops over time and occurs when liver tissue is replaced with hard scar tissue caused by a variety of insults including hepatitis C, heavy alcohol consumption, obesity, fatty liver disease or other strains of the hepatitis virus. Scar tissue does not work as well as normal tissue and can lead to liver failure. Ascites, a condition in which fluid collects in the abdominal cavity, is one result of liver failure.

Clostridium-difficile infection (C-diff)

Clostridium-difficile infection (C-diff) is defined as the onset of diarrhea with toxigenic c. difficile or its toxin, when there is no other cause for diarrhea. The two biggest risk factors are exposure to antibiotics and exposure to the organism (the bacterium is usually spread through the fecal-oral route.) Depending on severity and recurrence rate, treatment can range from antibiotics to fecal microbiota transplant.

Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer attacks portions of the large intestine. It is the third most common cause of cancer among men and women. With regular screening, pre-cancerous cells can be detected before they become cancerous and cancers can be detected early, when a cure is more likely.

Constipation

Constipation is infrequent or hard bowel movements. Everyone’s habits are different, so “normal” bowel movements vary. Constipation often is caused by insufficient fiber or water, lack of exercise, stress, or certain medications (especially strong medications for pain).

Crohn’s disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory condition that can affect the entire thickness of the bowel wall or any part of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract, sometimes leaving patches of diseased intestine among the normal areas. The symptoms that can result include abdominal pain, weight loss, bowel urgency, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. Although Crohn’s disease is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, it can often be controlled with the proper treatment.

Diarrhea

Chronic diarrhea is the production of loose stools with or without increased stool frequency for more than four weeks. There are many causes for chronic diarrhea, and the appropriate diagnosis can be achieved with a correlation of data from history, physical examination, laboratory test, x-rays and/or endoscopy studies.

Diverticulosis

Diverticulosis refers to the presence of diverticula (small pouches or sacs) that can develop in the lining of the GI tract. They are most common in the left side of the large intestine, area known as the descending and sigmoid colon. Diverticulitis is when the diverticula becomes infected or inflamed. People presented with this complication can experience fever, abdominal pain (usually in the lower left side), diarrhea and/or constipation and decreased appetite. Treatment requires antibiotics and possibly hospitalization.

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE)

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is characterized by a large number of eosinophils (a special type of white blood cells) that can cause inflammation in the esophagus. This can lead to stiffening and narrowing in the esophagus, causing difficulty swallowing. These factors may also be present with GERD. Currently the only way to diagnose EoE is by performing an upper endoscopy with biopsy.

Gallstones

Gallstones form in the gallbladder or bile duct. The gallbladder stores bile which is made by the liver. Bile helps digest dietary fats. Gallstones made of cholesterol can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball. Most gallstones do not need treatment, but if they block the duct, the stones and/or the gallbladder may need to be removed.

Gas

Gas in the digestive tract is common and normal. Occasional gas is eliminated by burping or passing it through the rectum. Gas comes from two sources, swallowed air and the process of breaking down of foods in the intestine. Foods that contain carbohydrates commonly cause gas: sugars, beans, starches (such as potatoes and corn) and fiber.

Heartburn and GERD

Heartburn is the burning or pressure sensation under the breastbone that rises into the throat. It is one of the symptoms of GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). In GERD, stomach acid rises and damages the lining of the esophagus. Occasional heartburn can be reduced by avoiding or limiting fried or fatty foods, tomatoes, citrus fruits, juices, chocolate and caffeine, and by eating smaller meals. GERD should be assessed by a doctor.

Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids occur when anal or rectal blood vessels become enlarged. They are common and rarely serious, but sometimes uncomfortable. Common causes include obesity, constipation, pregnancy, and standing for long periods of time.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis is inflammation (swelling) of the liver. It can be caused by alcohol abuse, certain medications, and hepatitis viruses. Hepatitis C is spread by contact with infected blood from another person. After contact, Hepatitis C can become a chronic infection which leads to liver damage.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) refers to a group of diseases that affect the colon; the best known of these are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC). Common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and weight loss. The diseases differ in the area of the intestine affected and in their treatments.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) occurs with the colon does not contract with its normal wavelike motions, and instead moves more slowly or more quickly, or when contractions become disorganized (spastic colon). This can cause periods of pain, cramping, diarrhea and constipation.

Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that occurs when its digestive enzymes are activated before they are released into the small intestine. When this happens they attack the pancreas, causing damage. Pancreatitis can be acute or chronic, and depending on its severity may require hospitalization for treatment.

Peptic ulcer disease

Peptic ulcer disease is the most common type of ulcer in the GI tract. It is caused when acids in the digestive system corrode the stomach lining. Ulcers also can be caused by certain bacteria (Helicobacter pylori or H-pylori) or medicines (aspirin, warfarin and NSAIDs).

Ulcerative colitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory condition involving the innermost lining of the colon, beginning in the rectum and extending up to the colon (large intestine). Symptoms can include abdominal pain, weight loss, bowel urgency, diarrhea, and blood in the stool. Although ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, it can often be controlled with the proper treatment.