Signs and symptoms for common GI problems
At Bryan, our experienced doctors and staff treat a range of gastrointestinal (GI) problems. Below are some of the more common GI conditions we treat, along with the signs and symptoms you may experience with each condition.
If you have symptoms, talk to your doctor or a gastroenterologist who specializes in GI disorders. Your symptoms may be more than just annoying. It could be a sign of a health problem. Advanced treatments and our expert staff can restore your health.
If you don't have a doctor, find a doctor now.
Acid Reflux/Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD occurs when acid and food in the stomach back up into your esophagus. This often happens when the lower muscle (sphincter) of the esophagus does not close properly. Several factors can increase your risk for GERD such as foods that contain caffeine or fatty foods, hiatal hernia, weight gain, pregnancy, lying down after a meal or medicines such as NSAIDs, aspirin and some antibiotics.
GERD/Acid Reflux Symptoms
- Heartburn is the most common symptom
- Other symptoms include:
- Burning pain in your chest that usually occurs after meals and can spread to you neck, jaw or shoulder
- Bitter taste in your mouth
- Trouble swallowing
- Frequent burping
Gastritis is inflammation of the lining of your stomach. The stomach lining helps prevent acids from damaging your stomach. Bacteria, alcohol and NSAIDs can cause gastritis. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin and naproxen are usually taken for pain, swelling and fever. They wear down the lining of the stomach if taken over a long period of time or if too many pills are taken at once.
- Stomach pain, tenderness or burning
- Nausea or vomiting
- Decreased appetite
- Being very tired
- Bad breath
It is possible to have gastritis and have no symptoms.
A peptic ulcer is an open sore in the lining of your stomach, intestine or esophagus. Peptic ulcers have different names, depending on their location. Peptic ulcers may be a short-term or long-term problem. Most peptic ulcers are caused by a bacteria in the stomach called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). Other risk factors for peptic ulcers include smoking, drinking alcohol and use of medicines called NSAIDs.
Peptic Ulcer Symptoms
- Burning feeling or pain in your upper abdomen
- Red or black colored bowel movements, due to bleeding from the ulcer
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a condition that prevents food from moving through your intestines normally. The food may move through too slowly or too quickly. This causes bloating, increased gas, constipation or diarrhea. The cause of IBS is not known. Certain foods, stress, hormonal changes or medical conditions such as nerve damage, celiac disease or infectious diarrhea may trigger IBS symptoms.
- Abdomen pain that disappears after having a bowel movement
- Abdominal cramps that worsen after eating
- Bloated abdomen
- Mucus in your bowel movement
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation and ulcers along the lining of the digestive tract. It is most often associated with symptoms of abdominal cramping, diarrhea and rectal bleeding. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and medical intervention is often necessary. While the cause of ulcerative colitis is unknown, immune and hereditary factors seem to play a role in this disease process.
Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas and can occur once or repeatedly over time. An acute pancreatitis occurs suddenly and may last for days while chronic pancreatitis may occur for years. Causes of pancreatitis may include many factors such as alcoholism, gallstones, abdominal surgery, cigarette smoking, cystic fibrosis, high triglyceride levels in the blood, infection, injury to the abdomen and pancreatic cancer.
- Abdominal tenderness
- Abdominal pain that may worsen after eating. The pain is often located in the upper abdomen and may radiate to the back
Esophageal varices are abnormal, enlarged veins in the esophagus that are often seen in patients with severe liver disease. Symptoms of esophageal varices include vomiting blood or black, tarry stools. Esophageal varices can be life-threatening and require medical intervention.
Crohn’s disease is a condition characterized by inflammation of the digestive tract. The exact cause of Crohn’s disease is unknown, however it appears that it may be associated with immune function and heredity.
Crohn’s Disease Symptoms
- Blood in the stool
- Mouth sores
- Abdominal pain
Gallstones are hardened deposits of bile (digestive fluid) that can become stuck in the gallbladder and bile ducts. Gallstones may occur when the gallbladder does not empty properly or when the chemical composition of the gallbladder is altered. Gallstones are very common in the U.S.
Pain associated with gallstones can last minutes to hours, and is usually sudden and intense. It can occur in the upper right portion of the abdomen, just below the breast bone, in the right shoulder or between the shoulder blades.
Hemorrhoids are veins within the rectum and anus that become swollen and inflamed due to increased pressure in the area. Typically this increased pressure is caused by straining to have a bowel movement or pregnancy. Symptoms often associated with hemorrhoids are pain, discomfort, itching in the rectum, small amounts of bright red blood present in the toilet or on tissue paper after having a bowel movement, or a small lump near the anus.
Barrett’s esophagus is often seen in patients with a long history of gastric reflux, also called acid reflux.
The lining of the stomach is designed to protect the stomach from the acid within it. The esophagus, however, does not have this protective lining. When a person has gastric reflux and acid goes up into the esophagus the body attempts to protect the esophagus by growing gastric cells.
While this does protect the esophagus it also increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Regular monitoring by a health care provider is recommended if you have Barrett’s esophagus.
Barrett’s Esophagus Symptoms
- Frequent heartburn
- Difficulty swallowing
Fecal transplant provides fast and effective relief to patients with severe, frequent diarrhea caused by clostridium difficile (C. diff) infection. Fecal material from a healthy donor is transplanted into the sick patient’s colon through an endoscope during a colonoscopy procedure. The healthy bacteria will multiply and push out the bad C. diff bacteria to relieve symptoms.