If you are experiencing uncomfortable symptoms such as heartburn, nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, or difficulty swallowing, this can indicate an upper GI (gastrointestinal) tract disorder. If you frequently suffer from these symptoms, it may be time to seek the expertise of a gastroenterologist for further investigation in order to treat the underlying condition effectively.
The upper GI tract consists of the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum (first part of the small intestine), while the lower GI tract includes the small intestine, large intestine (colon), rectum, and anus. Disorders within the GI tract are usually referred to according to the part of the tract in which they occur.
Let’s take a look at some of the most frequently treated disorders of the upper GI tract and who you can talk to if you have any of these uncomfortable symptoms on a regular basis.
Upper GI Disorders Treated Most Often by Doctors
Disorders that affect the upper GI tract can display symptoms such as:
- Heartburn and indigestion
- Difficulty swallowing
- Abdominal pain or stomach cramps
Common upper GI disorders include the following:
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, a severe and chronic form of acid reflux, occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus (the tube that moves food from your throat to your stomach). A ring of muscles called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is located at the bottom of the esophagus. Normally, the LES closes tightly after food enters the stomach from the esophagus.
With GERD, however, the ring doesn’t always remain strongly closed. It can therefore allow stomach contents and acids to pass back upward into the esophagus.
Symptoms can include a burning pain in the chest area (heartburn) usually after a meal, a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, bad breath, and difficulty swallowing. Chronic GERD can cause damage and narrowing to the lining of the esophagus.
An inherited autoimmune disorder, celiac disease is a serious sensitivity to gluten – which is a protein found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye. When gluten is consumed by someone who has celiac disease, the gluten causes your immune system to go on the attack. The immune system mistakenly damages the small intestine and hinders the absorption of nutrients in the food.
Symptoms of celiac disease can include bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, anemia, depression, and fatigue. It can also cause serious, long-term digestive and nutrition problems.
Celiac disease is different from gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy, as neither of these conditions cause actual damage to the intestine as celiac disease can.
A peptic ulcer is a sore that develops in the lining of the stomach or the duodenum. The stomach secretes mucus to protect the lining of the stomach from the digestive acids and enzymes, but an imbalance of these digestive fluids can cause inflammation and weakening of the mucus lining – which can lead to the formation of ulcers.
Common causes of peptic ulcers include long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), which is a bacterial infection in the stomach. Peptic ulcers can cause heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and bloating.
Gastroenterology in Greater Austin, Texas
If you have frequent abdominal or digestive symptoms, talk to the medical experts at Austin Gastroenterology today. Our board-certified gastroenterologists can diagnose, treat, and prevent many GI and liver disorders, from the most common to the most complex.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, call us at the location nearest you or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to serving you and helping you finally find relief.