Published on March 27, 2018

Mercy Fitzgerald GI experts can help

GI conditions can affect your well-being and disrupt your life.

Sonaly PatelSome conditions can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, downright dangerous.

So it’s good to know that you can turn to the experts at Mercy Fitzgerald for your digestive needs. The Mercy Gastroenterology specialists evaluate, diagnose and treat many digestive problems at the Heartburn and Reflux Center at Mercy Fitzgerald.

“A digestive problem can have a big impact on your health and quality of life,” says Sonaly Patel, MD, of Mercy Gastroenterology. “There’s no reason to just put up with it. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a digestive problem, tell a doctor. He or she may refer you to a gastroenterologist. We are experts at treating the most common and the most complex digestive disorders.”

Common digestive complaints Mercy can help treat include:

Acid reflux (heartburn). That’s when stomach acids move backward up into the esophagus—causing burning behind the breastbone and a bitter taste in your throat. Frequent heartburn and trouble swallowing (it feels like food is getting stuck in your throat) can signal a more serious form of heartburn called GERD, short for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Untreated GERD can damage the esophagus and increase the risk of cancer.

Doctors can use a number of tests to diagnose acid reflux problems, including an X-ray test called an upper GI series (which involves drinking a barium solution) or an endoscopy (during which a lighted viewing tube is passed through the mouth into the stomach).

Doctors treat heartburn or GERD to ease symptoms and heal the esophagus. Options include lifestyle changes—some as simple as not lying down right after eating; taking nonprescription and prescription medicines; and sometimes having surgery.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). People with IBS have bouts of diarrhea or constipation with abdominal discomfort and bloating. When diarrhea strikes, they may have to get to a toilet quickly. IBS does not lead to other diseases. But living with it can be stressful.

Treatment for IBS is aimed at easing symptoms. A doctor may suggest:

  • Making dietary changes, such as eating more easily tolerated fibrous foods and limiting foods (often gassy foods) that worsen IBS symptoms
  • Managing stress, which doesn’t cause IBS but can affect symptoms
  • Taking medications to treat diarrhea or abdominal pain

Ulcerative colitis (UC). This is an inflammation of the lining of the large intestine. Many people with UC have mild to moderate symptoms, like bloody diarrhea, cramps and an urgent need to use the toilet. More severe UC can cause fever, weight loss, loss of appetite and tiredness.

Your symptoms and the results of certain tests (such as a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy to check the large intestine) help doctors diagnose UC.

UC is often a lifelong condition, and it can increase the risk of colon cancer. But medicines can help bring the disease into symptom-free remission. Some people need surgery to remove the colon and rectum because of life-threatening complications, colon cancer, pre-cancer or severe medication side effects.