A gastroenterologist is a type of physician that has a special interest in diseases of the digestive tract and is trained to treat those diseases. To become specialized in the treatment and management of conditions in the digestive system, a GI doctor must undergo training in both internal medicine as well as more advanced training in the potential problems of the digestive tract. Gastroenterologists serve a vital role in the health and well being of people with digestive disease.
For people with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other serious conditions, the relationship with a gastroenterologist is an important and personal one. Upon a first visit to a gastroenterologist, many people may feel nervous and embarrassed. Discussing bowel movements and other personal issues can be a barrier. But it is important to be as honest as possible in order to receive the best care.
For people with IBD, the gastroenterologist is going to be the doctor that gives the most care, prescribes the most medications, and offers the most assistance. There will be other important members of a healthcare team involved too, and a gastroenterologist can help in putting together the right team. Do I Need A Gastroenterologist? People living with digestive disease should see a digestive specialist.
The years of training and seeing and treating similar patients offers invaluable insight into digestive disease. Digestive diseases tend to be complicated and far-reaching, which is why a specialist is so important. Gastroenterologists who specialize in IBD often work in IBD centers, where patients can benefit from the latest information, guidelines, and research being done on IBD. What Training Do Gastroenterologists Have? A gastroenterologist must first complete a 4-year undergraduate college degree followed by another 4 years of medical school.
At that time, the physician receives a medical degree, and could seek licensing. The next step to becoming a gastroenterologist is a 3-year residency in internal medicine. At that time a physician may elect to continue on to a specialty in gastroenterology. A gastroenterology fellowship is 2 to 3 years during which a physician learns to evaluate and manage digestive diseases. This training encompasses conditions that may be seen in an office or in a hospital setting.
The physicians are also given instructions in how to perform diagnostic endoscopy procedures, such as colonoscopy. In all, a gastroenterologist has undergone a minimum of 13 years of formal classroom education and practical training before becoming a certified gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist may further specialize, and take an interest in studying and treating only certain diseases or conditions.
For instance, some physicians may specialize in IBD and see primarily patients who have IBD. Others may choose to specialize in liver diseases or colorectal cancer. This can offer patients an even higher level of care, because their gastroenterologist will have a very high level of knowledge related to their particular disease. What Conditions Do Gastroenterologists Treat? A gastroenterologist that is certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery must have proficiency in diagnosing and treating the following conditions: Conditions Anorectal conditions Hemorrhoids Colonic neoplasms Cancer Polyps Diverticulosis Esophageal reflux Gastritis Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Hepatitis Hiatal Hernia Inflammatory bowel disease Irritable bowel syndrome Ulcers A gastroenterologist must also be proficient in treating and managing the following signs and symptoms: Signs and Symptoms Abdominal pain Abnormal x-ray findings Constipation Diarrhea Difficulty swallowing Heartburn Indigestion Jaundice Liver Disease Malabsorption Nausea Post-operative colon tests Rectal bleeding Unexplained weight loss Vomiting And in performing the following tests: Colon screening exams Esophageal and intestinal dilation Hemostasis Polypectomy How to Locate A Gastroenterologist When a person is experiencing symptoms in the digestive tract, it may be time to consult a gastroenterologist.
A primary care physician or an internist can help with a referral to a gastroenterologist, but they can also be found through the following sources: Source: American College of Gastroenterology. "What is a Gastroenterologist?" American College of Gastroenterology 2006. 20 Jan 2014.
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Find the right doctor. It's one of the best things you can do for yourself when you have Crohn's. Because Crohn's is a lifelong illness, you want someone you can count on for the long haul. You also want someone you trust and feel at ease with because chances are you'll see a lot of your doctor over time. You'll want to look for these 10 things in a doctor: 1. Background in treating Crohn's disease .
Your Crohn's may be mild and need a little help. Or it may be severe and require complex treatment. In that case, the number one thing to look for is the right kind of gastroenterologist. A gastroenterologist is a doctor who specializes in digestion and problems in the gut. If you have severe Crohn's, find a gastroenterologist who specializes in inflammatory bowel disease. You can find one at most medical centers and teaching hospitals or through the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America.
If you can't see a specialist, your primary care doctor may need to consult with one to plan your care. 2. Wants to work with your other doctors. Your Crohn's doctor should be willing to work with your primary care doctor, who is your partner for treating any other medical problems you may have. Your Crohn's doctor should also be able to refer you to people who will help you make other health changes such as quit smoking, get more exercise, or improve your diet.
3. Willing to treat Crohn's aggressively if necessary. The better your treatment is at keeping your gut from becoming inflamed, the more likely you are to avoid scarring and other health problems that Crohn's can cause. This helps you avoid hospital stays and surgeries and keep up with your job, family, and the things you enjoy. 4. Someone you can talk to. You want a doctor who can explain your disease or answer your questions fully and clearly.
If your doctor doesn't have enough time to answer your questions, make sure a nurse or other person in the office can. Continued 5. A treatment style that works for you. Do you prefer someone who's very direct or more personal? You'll want a doctor who's a good match. 6. Someone you like. Of course your doctor's skills and judgment matter. There's also a personal aspect. People who feel at ease with their doctors are more likely to stick with their doctors' plan and keep up with their prescriptions.
7. Looks beyond drug treatment. Your doctor should also talk to you about more than medications. You also need to discuss food and nutrition, helpful lifestyle habits like exercise and not smoking, and surgery if it could help you. 8. A good office staff. Does the staff answer your calls or return them right away? Are they polite and helpful? 9. Insurance . Is the doctor on your insurance plan? 10.
Easy access. If your symptoms get worse, can you get in to see the doctor quickly? Does the doctor respond to your calls or emails. What to Do if Your Doctor Misses the Mark If your doctor doesn't hit the mark in all areas, these tips may help you: Bring questions. Come to your doctor visit with a list of things that are on your mind. Bring up the most pressing ones first. Your doctor or a staff member might also answer questions by email.
Let you doctor know if you don't understand something or need something repeated. Ask anything -- no question is too basic. Be honest. Keep notes of your symptoms and the treatments you've tried, including over-the-counter drugs and nutrition supplements. Tell your doctor how you feel. And if you miss a dose of a prescribed drug, be sure to mention that. If you don't think your doctor is right for you, you can look for another one.
Your insurance provider, regular doctor, friends, or the American College of Gastroenterology may be able to help you find one who specializes in treating Crohn's. Sources SOURCES: Richard Bloomfeld, MD, associate professor of medicine, director of the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston Salem, N.C. Prabhakar Swaroop, MD, assistant professor; director, Crohn’s and Colitis Program, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.
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