Our Gastroenterology Blog

Posts for category: Gastroenterology

By Digestive Medicine Associates
August 16, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Acute Pancreatitis  

Acute pancreatitis strikes suddenly, causing severe pain and vomiting. More than 300,000 people are admitted to U.S. hospitals every year due to acute pancreatitis, according to The National Pancreas Foundation.

What causes acute pancreatitis?

If you have gallstones, you may be at increased risk of developing acute pancreatitis. The condition can occur when stones get stuck in the common bile duct and prevent pancreatic fluids from flowing freely. Stones can also force bile to flow back into the pancreas, which may damage it.

You may also develop acute pancreatitis if your calcium or triglyceride levels are very high, or you have an autoimmune disorder, infection, an overactive parathyroid gland, cystic fibrosis or regularly take certain medications. High alcohol consumption can cause pancreatitis, particularly if you've been a heavy drinker for years. In some cases, the cause of acute pancreatitis can't be determined.

What are the symptoms of acute pancreatitis?

Pain from acute pancreatitis is felt in the upper part of the abdomen, although it can extend to your back. The pain may be mild at first, but may become severe and constant and may worsen after you eat or drink alcohol. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a rapid pulse. Prompt treatment is essential if you experience any of these symptoms. The condition can cause bleeding, infections and may even damage your kidneys, lungs and heart if the attack is severe. Although most people recover from acute pancreatitis, the condition can be life-threatening.

How is acute pancreatitis treated?

If your condition is caused by gallstones, you'll need surgery to remove the stones. In some cases, surgery may also be needed to keep your bile ducts open. If you're admitted to the hospital, you'll be given fluids to prevent dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhea and may receive medication for nausea and pain. Foods and beverages are usually stopped for one to two days after you're admitted to the hospital.

Changing your medications, avoiding alcohol and addressing the causes of high triglyceride or calcium levels may help prevent further bouts of acute pancreatitis. If you have numerous attacks of acute pancreatitis or continue to drink alcohol, the condition can become chronic.

Although it's not always possible to prevent acute pancreatitis, you can reduce your risk by exercising regularly, following a healthy diet and avoiding heavy consumption of alcohol.

By Digestive Medicine Associates
July 30, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Hepatitis B  

Dealing With Hepatitis B

Have you been diagnosed with Hepatitis B? Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis B virus. The virus is passed from person to person through semen, blood, or other body fluids. There is no cure for acute hepatitis B. There are many things patients can do to improve their health and protect their liver. The following tips will help you get started on the path toward improved health and well-being.

1. See your healthcare provider regularly. Schedule regular visits with your doctor to stay on top of your health and the health of your liver. People with Hepatitis B can live full lives by taking good care of themselves and getting regular checkups. Getting checkups is an important part of staying healthy.

2. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages. Avoid drinking alcohol if you have Hepatitis B. Most people know that the liver acts as a filter and can be damaged by drinking too much alcohol. Studies show that alcohol increases HBV replication, promotes damage to the liver and increases the likelihood of developing cirrhosis.

3. Talk to your doctor before taking OTC drugs. Check with your doctor about any OTC drugs or non-hepatitis B prescription medications before taking them to make sure they're safe for your liver. Talk to your doctor before taking any vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies because they could interfere with your prescribed medications or even damage your liver.

4. Avoid breathing in fumes to protect your liver. Avoid inhaling fumes from paint, household cleaning products, glue, nail polish removers, and other potentially toxic chemicals that could damage your liver. Make certain you have good ventilation, cover your skin, use a mask, and wash off any chemicals you get on your skin with water and soap as soon as possible.

5. Eat a healthy diet to protect your liver. Eat a balanced, healthy diet of fruits, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and vegetables. Try to avoid saturated and trans fats. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli have been shown to help protect the liver against environmental chemicals.

6. Talk to your doctor about medication. Your doctor may recommend antiviral medications to treat Hepatitis B. Antiviral drugs can help fight the virus and slow its ability to damage your liver. Antiviral drugs approved for treatment of chronic hepatitis B include lamivudine, adefovir, telbivudine, entecavir, and tenofovir. These drugs are taken by mouth. Talk to your healthcare provider about which medication might be right for you.

7. In severe cases, a hospital stay is needed. In some cases, an acute hepatitis B infection can be very severe. For acute Hepatitis B, medical professionals usually recommend rest, fluids, adequate nutrition, and close medical monitoring. Severe symptoms may require hospital treatment. A very small number of patients with acute hepatitis B infection will develop liver failure. They will require a liver transplant to prevent death.

8. Talk to your doctor about interferon injections. Interferon injections. Interferon alpha-2b is the form of the drug that works against chronic hepatitis B infection. It's used mainly for young patients affected by chronic hepatitis B or women who want to get pregnant within a few years. Interferon should not be used during pregnancy.

If you think you might have hepatitis B, don't worry, help is available. Search for a gasterontologist in your area and schedule a consultation. Hepatitis B treatment has improved the lives of many people. And it will do the same for you!

By Digestive Medicine Associates
July 15, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Hiatal Hernia  

A hiatal hernia is when the stomach bulges through an opening in the diaphragm. Some people don’t even now that they have a hiatal hernia because it doesn’t always produce symptoms; however, some people find out that they have a hiatal hernia once they are dealing with persistent heartburn and indigestion. These symptoms are more likely to occur because a hernia makes it easier for the acids within the stomach to travel back up through the esophagus, which results in heartburn.

In most cases, self-care treatments and medications are enough to alleviate the symptoms associated with a hiatal hernia; however, if the hernia is large then the patient may require surgery. If you are dealing with persistent or severe indigestion and heartburn there are many reasons why this may be happening. While it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a hiatal hernia it’s a good idea to see a gastroenterologist to find out what may be causing your acid reflux.

How to Treat a Hiatal Hernia

Before treating a hiatal hernia your gastroenterologist will need to diagnose your condition first. There are several tests that can determine whether you may have a hernia. These tests include a barium swallow, an endoscopy and a pH test. Once your GI doctor has determined that you have a hiatal hernia the next step is to create a treatment plan to manage your symptoms.

Again, there are a lot of people with hiatal hernias that don’t even know it because they aren’t experiencing symptoms. If your hernia isn’t causing you problems then treatment is rarely necessary. If you are dealing with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as a result of your hiatal hernia then there are some lifestyle modifications you can make to reduce your symptoms. These changes include:

  • Eating smaller meals
  • Losing excess weight if you are overweight
  • Avoiding citrus, acidic, and spicy foods
  • Limiting fried, fatty goods
  • Limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating about 3-4 hours before bed or lying down
  • Elevating your head six inches above the rest of your body while sleeping
  • Avoiding tight clothes, which can put too much pressure on your stomach

You may even choose to take an over-the-counter antacid after eating to reduce stomach acid. Of course, these over-the-counter medications shouldn’t be taken for more than two weeks. You gastroenterologist can also prescribe a stronger antacid that you will be able to take whenever you need it to neutralize stomach acid or to block acid altogether.

Hiatal Hernia Surgery

Surgery for a hiatal hernia is not often necessary; however, if you’ve been dealing with severe reflux that isn’t alleviated with lifestyle changes or medications then surgery may be the only option. If blood flow to the part of the stomach that is sticking through the esophagus is cut off, then surgery will also be required.

If you are dealing with persistent acid reflux and indigestion it’s important to talk with your gastroenterologist to find out if a hiatal hernia could be to blame.

By Digestive Medicine Associates
July 01, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Hemorrhoids  

While an embarrassing condition, hemorrhoids are rather common and will happen to the majority of us at some point during our lifetime. This condition occurs when the veins around the rectum or anus swell. Even though this problem is harmless it can be painful. There are many reasons why someone may deal with hemorrhoids. Those who lead a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop hemorrhoids. Those who are obese or deal with constipation regularly, as well as pregnant women are also prone to hemorrhoids.

Hemorrhoids can either develop inside the rectum (internal) or around the anus (external). You may be dealing with hemorrhoids if you experience:

  • Bright red blood during bowel movements
  • Anal itching and soreness
  • Pain and swelling around the anus
  • A tender lump around the anus

Sometimes hemorrhoids will go away on their own; however, it’s important to know when to see a gastroenterologist for treatment. After all, some of these symptoms could also be caused by other conditions. If you are dealing with rectal bleeding or pain it’s a good idea to see a GI doctor who will be able to perform the proper tests to confirm whether you have hemorrhoids and to rule out any other intestinal problems.

One way to prevent hemorrhoids is to prevent straining during bowel movements and constipation. In order to do this you must staying hydrated and eat a healthy, high-fiber diet. Staying active and losing excess weight can also improve gut health. If you sit for the majority of the day it’s important to get up and move around to take pressure off the veins of the anus.

In terms of treatment, the goal is to reduce pain, inflammation and irritation so the area can properly heal. This involves eating a high-fiber diet. You can also use an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream, which can numb the area and reduce discomfort. Soaking for 10-15 minutes in a sitz bath can also ease symptoms. With the proper treatment and care hemorrhoids will often go away in about a week. If you don’t experience relief, or if your symptoms are severe then it’s time to see a gastroenterologist.

In some cases, surgery is necessary in order to treat complications (e.g. blood clots) of hemorrhoids or to properly address bleeding, painful, or persistent hemorrhoids. A gastroenterologist can perform these simple outpatient procedures right in their office.

If you are experiencing symptoms of hemorrhoids and not experiencing relief from over-the-counter medications and at-home care then it’s time to see a GI doctor for treatment.

By Digestive Medicine Associates
June 24, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Colonoscopy  

ColonoscopyWhile you may have never had a colonoscopy before, chances are good that you have at least heard about them. A minimally invasive nonsurgical procedure, colonoscopies allow our gastroenterologists in Miami, Coral Gables, Kendall, and Pembroke Pines, FL, to thoroughly examine and inspect the lining of the colon/rectum to look for potential issues. Here are some of the top reasons our medical team may recommend getting a colonoscopy,

Screen for Colorectal Cancer

A colonoscopy is still the very best and most effective tool for detecting the early signs of colorectal cancer. To date, there is no better procedure that can be performed to check for this type of cancer. Therefore, it’s highly advised that both men and women visit one of our offices in Miami, Coral Gables, Kendall, or Pembroke Pines, FL, for a routine colonoscopy by the time they reach 50 years old.

You Are Experiencing Certain Digestive Issues

Sometimes certain symptoms can also point towards the necessity of a colonoscopy. These symptoms include,

  • Bowel changes (e.g. diarrhea or constipation)
  • Blood in the stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Feeling as if the bowels don’t fully empty
  • Very thin stool
  • Unexplained and sudden weight loss

You Have Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

Perhaps you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, or perhaps you’ve had colon polyps in the past. If this is the case, then your gastroenterologist may recommend getting a routine colonoscopy before the age of 50. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include,

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle
  • A low-fiber, high-fat diet or a diet high in processed foods
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Tobacco use
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Having inflammatory bowel disease (e.g. Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis)
  • Certain rare genetic disorders such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)

If you have any of these risk factors, particularly if you have a family or personal history of colorectal cancer, you’ll want to talk with us about whether or not you should get screened earlier and more regularly.

Contact Us

If you are experiencing digestive problems that you can’t seem to get under control, it’s important that you find out what’s going on. Call the team at Digestive Medicine Associates today at (305) 822-4107 to schedule an appointment. We have locations Miami, Coral Gables, Kendall, and Pembroke Pines, FL.

By Digestive Medicine Associates
June 24, 2019
Category: Gastroenterology
Tags: Pancreatitis  

The pancreas is an organ that we don’t often give much thought to and yet it’s quite important. After all, it is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes into the small intestines to help with digestion. It is also instrumental in releasing both insulin and glucagon into the blood, which influences metabolism and determines how effectively the body turns food into energy; however, certain lifestyle choices and health problems could lead to an attack of pancreatitis.

What is pancreatitis?

This condition is rather rare and occurs when the pancreas is inflamed. In most cases, this condition is acute and can be treated; however, sometimes it can become chronic. Damage to the pancreas will occur if the digestive enzymes are activated before the reach the intestines, causing the enzymes to destroy the pancreas.

What are the symptoms of pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis often causes upper abdominal pain that may get worse after eating and may radiate to your back. Your abdomen may be tender to the touch and you may feel nausea. Sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by a fever and rapid pulse.

Those who have chronic pancreatitis will notice the same abdominal pain that’s present in acute cases, as well as oily stools (known as steatorrhea) and unintended weight loss. If you are dealing with any kind of persistent abdominal pain it’s important to schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist. If the pain is severe or makes it difficult to stand up straight, you need immediate medical attention.

Of course, there are many conditions and injuries that can lead to upper abdominal pain, so it’s important that you consult your doctor as soon as possible. If it is pancreatitis, this will often require hospitalization, so this requires immediate medical attention.

What causes pancreatitis?

There are certain conditions and habits that can increase your likelihood for developing pancreatitis including:

  • Gallstones
  • Smoking
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • High calcium levels (usually occurs in those with hyperparathyroidism)
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Alcoholism
  • Pancreatic cancer

Sometimes the cause of pancreatitis is unknown. However, it is possible for this condition to lead to more serious complications such as an infection, diabetes or kidney failure if it isn’t properly treated.

How is pancreatitis treated?

As we mentioned above, most people with pancreatitis will need to be hospitalized. During hospitalization, the treatment plan will include:

  • Fasting for a couple of days (this will help your pancreas recover)
  • Pain medications
  • IV fluids

Once we have addressed your condition, we will then try to find the root cause. Based on the cause we may recommend additional treatment or surgeries including:

  • Surgery to remove obstructions of the bile duct
  • Pancreas surgery to drain fluid and remove diseased tissue
  • Gallbladder removal (if gallstones caused your pancreatitis)
  • Quitting alcohol or finding an alcohol treatment program

If you are dealing with unexplained abdominal pain or other digestive problems it’s important that you turn to a gastroenterologist who can figure out what’s going on. Call to schedule an appointment today.