Specialty Area: Gastroenterology

Description of Specialty: A gastroenterologist evaluates patients with complaints and diseases involving the intestinal tract from the mouth to the rectum.

1. Diagnosis: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Questions that should be asked:

  1. What causes reflux and is it related to a hiatal hernia?
  2. How severe is my reflux disease, and what can I do to improve my condition?
  3. What types of treatment are available, can complications occur and what if the treatment does not work?
  4. What kind of follow up is required?

2. Diagnosis: Peptic Ulcer Disease

Questions that should be asked:

  1. What caused the ulcer and is there a cure?
  2. Can any complications occur, how will I know, and what should I do then?
  3. Is further testing needed now or later?
  4. What role does diet play in this disease?

3. Diagnosis: Lactose Intolerance

Questions that should be asked:

  1. How do I know if I am lactose intolerant and can this condition be associated with other conditions of the intestinal tract?
  2. Is further testing needed to make a diagnosis?
  3. How can changing the diet help the symptoms?
  4. What is the long-term prognosis for this disorder?

4. Diagnosis: Celiac Sprue (Gluten Intolerance)

Questions that should be asked:

  1. What is causing this disease and how did I get it?
  2. How do I know, that I'm getting better?
  3. Do I need extra vitamins and should I see a dietitian?
  4. How is the prognosis?

5. Diagnosis: Crohn's disease and Ulcerative Colitis

Questions that should be asked:

  1. What kind of therapy is available. are there side effects and how should the treatment be monitored?
  2. How do I know if the treatment is working, and what complications can occur?
  3. What should I eat and what should I avoid?
  4. Where do I go to get more information and support?
  5. Is surgery indicated?
  6. If yes, when?

6. Diagnosis: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Questions that should be asked:

  1. Will further tests have to be done, and what can I do to feel better?
  2. Does medication help and are there any alternatives?
  3. Does diet or stress play a role?
  4. What's the prognosis?

7. Diagnosis: Diverticulosis/Diverticulitis

Questions that should be asked:

  1. Is this a disease and will it get worse?
  2. Should I change my diet or avoid certain foods?
  3. When does treatment become necessary?
  4. Is surgery needed?

8. Diagnosis: Colon Polyp

Questions that should be asked:

  1. What causes a polyp to form and should it be removed?
  2. Is follow-up needed?
  3. Should my family be checked?
  4. Can polyps lead to cancer?

9. Diagnosis: Hemorrhoids

Questions that should be asked:

  1. What is a hemorrhoid?
  2. What kind of treatment is available?
  3. Should I change my eating habits?
  4. Is surgery needed?

10. Tests:

  1. How often should a sigmoidoscopy be done?
  2. How often should a colonoscopy?
  3. How often should the stool be checked for blood?
  4. Is age a factor in considering doing the tests mention?

Erik P. Thyssen, M.D. Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO.


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