How do you know if you should see a gastroenterologist? Gastroenterologists diagnose and treat most disorders of the digestive tract, which includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, anus, pancreas, gallbladder, and liver. Your health insurance may require that you get a referral from your primary care physician before you see a gastroenterologist, so call the number on the back of your insurance card to find out before you schedule an appointment. If any of the below apply to you, make sure you meet with a board-certified gastroenterologist as soon as possible.
You’re 45 Years Old or Older
This is the number one reason why everyone should see a gastroenterologist for a colorectal cancer screening. The American Cancer Society recently lowered the recommended age to begin screening for colon cancer from 50 years of age down to 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, speak to your primary care physician regarding when you should begin screenings. A colonoscopy is the only cancer screening method that can actually prevent cancer before it starts!
You’ve Been Diagnosed with a Digestive Condition
If your primary care doctor has diagnosed a complex digestive disorder, such as Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Pancreatitis, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux), or Celiac disease, it’s important to consult with a gastroenterologist. Your PCP will most likely offer you a referral when they diagnose the condition, but if not, don’t be afraid to ask for one. While your primary care doctor may have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of medical issues, a gastroenterologist will have a lot of knowledge about conditions specific to the GI tract.
You Have Any of the Following Symptoms
If you experience rectal bleeding, blood in your stool, jaundice (yellowing of skin and/or eyes), difficulty swallowing, or unintended weight loss, you should see a doctor as soon as you can. These signs could be indicative of a serious issue.
You’ve Been Experiencing Minor Symptoms for Longer Than a Week
Occasional digestive symptoms are bound to happen, but if your abnormal GI symptoms are beginning to seem like your new normal, it may be time to see a gastroenterologist. If you notice persistent gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, or stomach pain, you may have a digestive disorder. It might seem embarrassing to talk to a stranger about your bathroom habits, but GI doctors are used to discussing such things, so you have nothing to worry about!
If you find yourself struggling with any of the above, schedule an appointment at one of our locations today.