The digestive system, also known as the gastrointestinal system, plays a crucial role in our overall health. Food is digested and absorbed by various organs, including the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, liver, and pancreas. These complex processes can be disrupted by gastrointestinal disorders, causing a range of symptoms and health concerns.
Common Gastrointestinal Disorders
Gastrointestinal disorders cover a broad spectrum of conditions, each with its own set of symptoms and complications. Some of the most prevalent disorders include:
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is characterised by chronic acid reflux, leading to symptoms like heartburn and regurgitation. Its diagnosis typically relies on symptoms, but in severe cases, endoscopy and pH monitoring may be used to confirm the condition.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
IBS is a functional gastrointestinal disorder characterised by abdominal pain and changes in bowel habits. Diagnosis primarily depends on the presence of characteristic symptoms. Additional tests may be conducted to rule out other conditions.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD encompasses conditions like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Diagnosis requires endoscopy (colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy) and tissue biopsies. Imaging studies like MRI or CT scans may also be employed.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten consumption. Diagnosis involves blood tests for specific antibodies and intestinal biopsy to confirm the condition.
To accurately diagnose gastrointestinal disorders and determine the appropriate treatment, healthcare professionals may employ a variety of diagnostic procedures:
- Gastrointestinal Endoscopy – These procedures, including colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy, allow direct visualisation of the digestive tract. They are essential for diagnosis and, in some cases, treatment.
- Imaging Studies – Methods like CT scans, MRI, and ultrasound are used to visualise the digestive system, detect abnormalities, and aid in diagnosis.
- Biopsy – In some cases, tissue samples are collected through endoscopy or surgery to confirm certain gastrointestinal disorders, including cancer.
- Blood Tests – Blood tests are employed to detect markers of specific gastrointestinal conditions, such as celiac disease or hepatitis.
- Breath Tests – These tests help diagnose conditions like H. pylori infection or carbohydrate malabsorption.
Gastrointestinal disorders can affect individuals of all age groups, with the specific disorders and their prevalence varying across the lifespan. In infants and children, conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and food allergies may emerge. Adolescents and young adults can experience inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, along with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). In adults, disorders such as GERD, peptic ulcers, and gallstones are common, while the risk of colorectal cancer increases with age.
Elderly adults may face issues like diverticulosis, diverticulitis, and gastrointestinal bleeding. It's essential to recognize that while certain disorders are more likely to appear in specific age groups, gastrointestinal conditions can affect individuals of any age. Regular screenings and consultation with healthcare providers are crucial for early detection and appropriate management, promoting better outcomes and overall well-being.
Seeking Professional Guidance
If you suspect you have a gastrointestinal disorder due to symptoms like abdominal pain, changes in bowel habits, or persistent heartburn, it's crucial to seek professional medical advice. Healthcare providers can recommend the appropriate diagnostic tests, interpret the results, and develop a personalised treatment plan.
Medical and Surgical Gastroenterology at Royal Care Hospital
Our Medical and Surgical Gastroenterology department at Royal Care Hospital offers a wide range of advanced services to address various gastrointestinal conditions. Our expert team specialises in performing advanced laparoscopic surgical procedures involving the oesophagus, stomach, intestines, appendix, liver, pancreas, spleen, gall bladder, and all types of abdominal emergencies, including conditions like pancreatitis and trauma. We are well-equipped to handle hernias, reno-rectal diseases (such as fistula, abscess, fissure, and piles), and obesity surgery, including laparoscopic weight loss surgery and sleeve gastrectomy. In addition, we provide specialised treatment for various cancers, including oesophageal, stomach, large intestinal, liver, pancreas, biliary (HPB), and rectal cancers.
Disclaimer: This is general information about the disease and treatment options. Please consult a specialist doctor for the right diagnosis and treatment, which may vary based on each patient. Book an appointment with your specialist to know more.