There are many reasons your doctor may recommend an endoscopy.
An endoscopy is a procedure conducted by gastroenterologists – doctors specializing in diseases of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract – to evaluate your digestive system and any suspected issues like infection, tissue damage or cancer.
Two types are commonly performed: an upper endoscopy (esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD) or lower GI endoscopy. As their names imply, the first explores the upper section of the digestive tract (esophagus, stomach, and into the upper part of the small intestine, called the duodenum), and the second explores the lower half (rectum and into part or all of the colon). If all of the colon is viewed, the procedure is called a colonoscopy. If only the sigmoid colon – the bottommost portion of the colon – is viewed, it is referred to as a sigmoidoscopy.
Both procedures use an endoscope (lighted camera attached to a long flexible tube) to examine the digestive tract. The scope enters the digestive tract either via a patient’s mouth (upper endoscopy) or anus (lower GI endoscopy).
An endoscopy allows your physician to make a more accurate diagnosis (than, say, X-rays might) in detecting inflammation, bleeding, ulcers or polyps, precancerous and cancerous tissues in the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, or lower GI tract.
Your gastroenterologist may be able to treat the issue – or at least biopsy suspect tissue during the procedure. In these cases, special instruments can be passed through the endoscope allowing your doctor to remove tissue or cauterize an area to stop bleeding.
When is an Endoscopy Required?
Endoscopies are used when an “inside look” is needed to better identify the potential cause of gastrointestinal symptoms such as acid reflux, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, diarrhea, cramping, bloating, and blood in the stool.
Your doctor will take several issues into consideration before ordering an endoscopy, including whether you currently have any digestive issues, and whether you have a family history or risk factors of developing these types of disorders.
Digestive tract issues that may be diagnosed and/or treated via endoscopy include:
- Crohn’s disease – a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
- Diverticulitis – small, bulging pouches in the GI lining, usually in the colon
- Duodenal ulcers – a type of peptic ulcer
- Esophagitis – inflammation of tissue in the esophagus
- Gallstones – hardened deposits of digestive fluid in the gallbladder
- Gastritis – inflammation of tissue in the stomach
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – chronic acid reflux
- Hemorrhoids – swollen or inflamed veins in the rectum or anus
- Hiatal hernia – when part of the stomach bulges through the diaphragm, the large muscle separating abdomen and chest
- Irritable bowel syndrome – a common IBD disorder affecting the large intestine
- Polyps – abnormal tissue growth
- Ulcerative colitis – an IBD causing long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract
Endoscopies can be both diagnostic and therapeutic. The procedure allows detection of medical issues, as well as treatments for many gastrointestinal problems.
If you have any of the symptoms of a gastrointestinal disease, or simply need more information about it, call Austin Gastroenterology in central Texas at (512) 454-4588 for an appointment. You can also use our convenient online appointment request form.