Gastroenterology- The medical specialty devoted to the study, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the digestive system. 

Gastroenterologists are doctors who investigate, diagnose, treat and prevent all gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines) and hepatological (liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas) diseases.

Gastroenterologists treat conditions such as:

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Anaemia – a condition where the haemoglobin the blood (a pigment that carries oxygen) is below normal levels
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, eg Crohn’s disease (inflammation of the lining of the digestive system), ulcerative colitis (inflammation and ulceration of the lining of the rectum and colon)
  • Short bowel syndrome
  • Jaundice – a condition where the skin yellows due to an accumulation of bilirubin the blood and tissues
  • Management of alcoholic, viral hepatitis (Inflammation of the liver caused by a virus) and autoimmune liver disorders (where the body attacks its own cells)
  • Diverticulitis - inflammation of the diverticula (small pouches) in the intestine
  • Gastroenteritis
  • hepatitis

Common procedures/interventions

These include:

  • Diagnostic and therapeutic upper and lower gastrointestinal endoscopy
  • Small bowel endoscopy
  • Paracentesis (puncture of the wall of a cavity using a hollow needle)
  • Insertion of parenteral nutrition line (intravenous feeding lines)
  • Planning and aftercare of patients undergoing liver transplant
  • Hepatology (diseases of the liver)
  • Pancreaticobiliary diseases of the pancreas and biliary system),
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Functional bowel disease
  • Tropical diseases
  • Gastrointestinal cancer and its prevention
  • Endoscopic surveillance
  • Upper GI disease (diseases of the oespahagus and stomach)
  • Small bowel disease
  • Pancreatic disease
  • Transplantation
  • Clinical pharmacology
  • Inherited cancer syndromes
  • Clinical nutrition

When Should I See a GI Doctor?

Adults and children see this type of specialist for gut-related symptoms or diseases, such as:

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Heartburn
  • Stomach pain
  • Often feeling sick to their stomach or throwing up
  • Yellowing of the skin
  • Frequent diarrhea
  • Ongoing constipation
  • Blood in their stool

Starting at age 50, people with an average risk for colon and rectal cancer may see a GI doc for routine colonoscopies to check for signs of cancer.

If you have certain liver conditions, you may see a hepatologist. That’s a gastroenterologist with special training in liver diseases.