Summary of Digestive Disorders
Digestive disorders may involve gastrointestinal organs and/or the accessory organs. Disorders of the digestive system may interfere with how the body breaks down or absorbs food. Diagnosis can sometimes be challenging as many symptoms of the digestive disorders can be generalized. Also, chronic diseases do not always display consistent symptoms until the disease is quite advanced, which is why preventative screenings are suggested for high risk populations.
Signs and Symptoms
Some signs and symptoms of digestive disorders are fairly understandable, like abdominal pain, but others can be less obvious. A patient with a digestive system disorder may experience some (or many) of these common symptoms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
- Visceral pain
- Blood in stool
- Bright red blood usually indicates bleeding in the lower gastrointestinal tract, while darker blood indicates bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract
There are many different lab tests, imaging tests, and procedures that may be used to diagnose digestive disorders. The following are some of the most common
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Some digestive disorders can be treated by changes to food/drink intake alone, while other disorders will require a more specialized approach.
- Dietary modifications – Making specific changes related to the cause of disease can be one of the most effective treatments
- Ex: Restrict gluten with Celiac disease, restrict lipids with gallbladder disorders
- Medications – While many types of medication may be used to treat digestive disorders, the drugs discussed here are among the most common and are specific to the digestive disease.
- Antiemetics – Reduce nausea and vomiting
- Antidiarrheals – Slow intestinal motility, allowing more water to be reabsorbed by the body
- Antacids – Lower acidity of the stomach
- Proton pump inhibitors – Reduce secretions of the stomach
- Laxatives – Increase intestinal motility
- Surgical procedures – Many gastrointestinal disorders can be treated with minimally-invasive laparoscopic procedures.