What is a Gastroenterologist?
A gastroenterologist is a physician who practices gastroenterology. Gastroenterology is the science of treating the gastrointestinal tract or the digestive track. The diseases that they treat can be as varied as irritable bowel syndrome to hepatitis C. The diagnosis process will almost always include using endoscopic tools to take a look at the intestinal tract. Gastroenterologists usually donot perform surgery on their patients. However, they will work closely with surgeons during any procedures involving surgery done on the intestinal tract. The organs that a gastroenterologist are responsible for are the tongue, saliva glands, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, epiglottis, rectum, and anus.
Specializing in Gastroenterology
Since Gastroenterology is a fairly wide field, many physicians will specialize in a specific area (Reference: Gastroenterologist in ft pierce). There is hepatology which focusses on the pancreas, liver, and gallbladder. Some physicians may specialize in treating diseases concerning the intestinal tract. Other common problems a gastroenterologist may treat are reflux disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome, gastrointestinal cancer, hemorrhoids, ulcers, polyps and irritable bowel syndrome.
How to Become a Gastroenterologist?
As with other doctors, gastroenterologist has to complete four years of medical school after having got a four-year undergraduate college degree. After graduating medical school there is will be a three-year residency practicing internal medicine, working alongside other gastroenterologists. After all this, there is usually three years of fellowship. This is when most gastroenterologist will learn endoscopy. Other responsibilities the student may be exposed to are caring for patients in different environments such as doctors office or hospitals, evaluating patients, hands on work during diagnostic procedures such as upper endoscopy, colonoscopy, and sigmoidoscopy. Other responsibilities may include advising patients on lifestyles and procedures. After all this, you will finally be able to take the board exam to get certified.
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Procedures and Practices
So you have gone through all the training and are certified to practice on your own. What kind of treatments can a gastroenterologist expect to do? Some of the most common procedures are colonoscopies to detect tumors and cancer. Endoscopic ultrasounds to keep an eye on the gastrointestinal tract and other internal organs such as the pancreas and gall bladder. Sigmoidoscopies will be done to detect bleeding in the bowel. Capsule endoscopies and double balloon enteroscopy to check on the small intestine.
When to See a Gastroenterologist
The obvious answer to this one is whenever you notice any issue with stomach area such as pain, difficulty in swallowing, constipation, abnormal amounts of gas, heartburn etc. Usually, people start off by consulting a regular doctor. Based on the doctor’s observations, lab tests and the patients’ health history and age, he or she will decide whether you should consult with a gastroenterologist. The regular doctor will usually only treat the patient if the problems are easily curable and not likely to reoccur. For all other problems, it is safer to get a more specialized opinion. However, for men and women above the age of 50, it is a good idea to get regular colonoscopies to keep a tab on the gastrointestinal tract.