Common gastrointestinal conditions are painful, but treatable

photo of a person with acid reflux

There was a time when dealing with things like acid reflux and other gastrointestinal issues could have been a challenge. In reality, Khalid Naseer, MDgastroenterologist at OSF HealthCare in Alton, IL, has no trouble spouting all the common ailments of the body’s digestive tract that pass through its door. But he says many problems that were once hard to solve now have a wealth of knowledge. And for patients, that means easier treatment.

acid reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux, sometimes called acid reflux, indigestion, or heartburn, occurs when stomach acid from your stomach backs up into your esophagus. It happens when a muscle at the bottom of your food pipe, the lower esophageal sphincter, relaxes too often or too long.

Treatment, Dr. Naseer says, begins before You feel bad.

We have to see a lot of patients gaining weight. In addition, we drink a lot of caffeine and soft drinks. We eat a lot of fried foods, citrus fruits, chocolates, tomatoes. said Dr. Naseer. “All of these things relax the esophageal sphincter muscle, and that makes acid reflux worse.”

Dr. Naseer says patients with acid reflux in his office will be asked about these lifestyle choices, but an endoscopy may also be needed. That’s when a tube with a camera is sent down your throat and a provider examines your digestive tract for things like inflammation, scarring, and ulcers. From there, a provider can prescribe medications. Surgery is also an option in more severe cases.

Dr. Naseer adds that leaving acid reflux untreated can lead to other problems, such as difficulty swallowing or breathing and even throat cancer.

Hepatitis C

When Dr. Naseer talks about liver disease Hepatitis Che repeats the refrain: it has become a very treatable condition.

We see the patient. We do tests for them,” says Dr. Naseer. “They usually don’t need a liver biopsy anymore, unless there’s a significant problem such as advanced cirrhosis or there’s confusion over the diagnosis.”

Treatment involves taking medication for eight to 12 weeks, and Dr. Naseer says he sees patients cured 95% of the time.

“The community understands a little better that hepatitis C has become a treatable disease,” says Dr. Naseer. “But still, a lot of people just don’t come for treatment. And if left untreated, it continues to cause liver damage and eventually they develop cirrhosis of the liver, which is a precancerous condition.

Dr. Naseer says that currently hepatitis C is mainly transmitted by sharing a needle (for taking illegal drugs, for example) with someone who has the disease. He says contracting the disease through blood contact or sex has become rare.

Another thing Dr. Naseer says to put on your Hep C prevention list: If you have risk factors for fatty liver disease, such as obesity, have your liver checked once a year. Or if you have a routine ultrasound and your provider notices liver problems, the provider should order more tests to investigate further.

be proactive

More information on gastrointestinal problems and treatments can be found on the OSF HealthCare website.

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