What a Gastroenterologist Does and When to Go See One

04. 09. 2018

Everyone experiences upset stomach or heartburn once in a while.  But if digestive problems become the norm, it’s time to take action.

GI Doctor Versus Primary Care Physician

It is usually a good rule of thumb to call your primary care physician (PCP) first if you are having ongoing gastrointestinal (GI) issues. Your PCP might want to see you before referring you to a specialist, or your insurance might even require a PCP referral.

If you are showing symptoms of a chronic GI disorder, you will need to see a gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and managing diseases of the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, small intestines, liver, bile ducts, pancreas, colon and rectum). A gastroenterologist’s training involves more than five years of additional education in internal medicine and gastroenterology following medical school. This includes training in endoscopy – the use of a narrow, flexible lighted tube with built-in video cameras used to see the inside of the GI tract.

Gastroenterologists Treat Heartburn, GERD and More

Persistent abdominal pain tends to be the most common complaint that brings a patient to a gastroenterologist. Other symptoms include:
• Heartburn/acid reflux
• Abdominal pain or bloating
• Excessive gas or belching
• Esophageal pain
• Vomiting
• Loss of appetite or weight
• Lethargy
• Rectal bleeding
• Fecal incontinence
• Bowel movement urges that are hard to control
• Diarrhea
• Change in bowel habits
• Pale-colored stools
• Dark urine

Do Not Ignore GI Symptoms

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, call your doctor and ask to be referred to a gastroenterologist. Digestive diseases can have serious long-term consequences, so do not downplay or ignore your symptoms. They could be warning signs of conditions like esophageal strictures, ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gallstones, celiac disease, lactose intolerance, Barrett’s esophagus, cancer or diverticulitis.

A gastroenterologist will perform a comprehensive evaluation to determine if your symptoms require further testing.  At the end of your exam,  you can schedule a follow-up visit or a future test like esophageal pH or upper endoscopy (source: Healthgrades).

Take a step toward better digestive health today. If your insurance does not require a referral to see a specialist, there is no reason to delay. Click here to find a board-certified gastroenterologist near you.

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