Understanding Digestive Diseases

Digestive diseases are some of the most uncomfortable to go through, so much so that even one of its most harmless forms — an upset stomach — leaves many of us unable to go to work or perform our daily routines. Imagine then, if the pain were not just a reaction to something we have eaten, but the result of something going wrong with our own digestive organs.

Because our digestive system is in charge of breaking down the food we eat so that our body can fully absorb it, most of our digestive organs contain large amounts of acid. Thus, if this acid were to make its way out of our digestive tract, this would result in multiple organ failure, and perhaps death. Hence, digestive diseases can be some of the most dangerous that we encounter, and it is important that they are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

One of the most common procedures done to detect and evaluate digestive diseases is called endoscopy. Here, a doctor (or sometimes a specialist such as a gastrointestinal surgeon) will use an endoscope — which is a flexible tube that has a small camera and light attached to it — to view the digestive tract and search for any sign of problems. Endoscopies are fairly routine nowadays, with clinics in Lehi, Utah and all over the United States offering this procedure.

Here are some of the digestive diseases than an endoscopy can evaluate:

Gastritis

Gastritis refers to the inflammation of the stomach lining, which is responsible for producing the stomach acids and enzymes that break down and digest food. An inflammation thus results in fewer acids and enzymes being produced, therefore a greater difficulty in digestion. However, the stomach lining also protects these acids from dissolving the stomach tissue itself. Hence, gastritis may lead to the wearing down of the stomach lining, in which case the condition is referred to as erosive gastritis. This, in turn, may lead to further digestive diseases such as ulcers.

Ulcers

stomach ulcer

Ulcers refer to open sores on the stomach or the small intestine, which is the result of digestive acids perforating and damaging the organ tissue. This can lead to burning pain, especially as the acid continues to build up and the organ linings are inflamed. In very serious cases, ulcers can also result in internal hemorrhaging, which occurs when the perforations bleed as well. In such cases, immediate medical attention — and possibly a blood transfusion — is urgently needed.

Gastrointestinal Bleeding

Gastrointestinal bleeding refers to internal bleeding that originates in the digestive organs. Gastritis and ulcers are among the most common causes of gastrointestinal bleeding. Other causes include the rupture of varices, which are abnormally enlarged veins near the esophagus and stomach, and esophagitis, which is the inflammation of the esophagus that could result from acid reflux. Although gastrointestinal bleeding is a symptom of a digestive disease rather than a disease itself, it is still important that it be detected as soon as possible. Moreover, it is possible that a person is not aware of gastrointestinal bleeding until an examination is performed by a doctor, which makes procedures such as endoscopies all the more necessary.

As with all kinds of diseases, one of the best methods of preventing the development of digestive diseases is frequent medical check-ups and examinations. Though the procedures may seem strange and unfamiliar at first, in the end, they might end up being the difference between living and dying from the disease.

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