Irritable Bowel Syndrome – Signs and Symptoms

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gut disorder affecting the large intestine. Though the exact cause is not known, this chronic condition is thought to be the result of hormonal or bacterial changes in the gut, as well as the disruption in communication between one’s gut and brain; as together they are tasked with controlling digestion.

While the syndrome afflicts mostly those under the age of 50, women are twice as likely than men to suffer from IBS. The following are the most common signs and symptoms of IBS, most of which can be relieved with the passing of a bowel movement.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Cramping & Abdominal Pain
  • Bloating & Gas
  • Diarrhea and or Constipation

Pain is usually felt as the muscles in the lower abdomen contract and excessive gas from bacteria can leave the stomach feeling full and protruding.

The three main types of IBS are:

  • Diarrhea-Predominant (D-IBS)
  • Constipation-Predominate (C-IBS)
  • Alternating Constipation and Diarrhea (A-IBS)

Both diarrhea and constipation are key symptoms of IBS. This is because the condition causes the muscles to contract in an abnormal way. As a result, they either speed up or slow down one’s bowel movements. Blood or mucus in the stool is another sign for concern as well.

While there is no cure for IBS, one’s diet, lifestyle and stress levels can play an important role in managing the symptoms.

Diet

Removing specific carbohydrates form one’s diet may help prevent flare ups. Food allergies, a lactose intolerance and celiac disease for example tend to cause inflammation and irritation in the gut.

Lifestyle

Exercise and proper sleep have been effective in stimulating normal contractions in the intestines. Additionally, proper hydration, high fiber foods and natural or probiotic supplements can help regulate bowel movements.

Stress

As the nervous system controls the gut, IBS is also thought to be linked to one’s mental health. Effectively treating anxiety, depression and stress therefore could help reduce psychological events that may be triggering IBS.

As one’s sensitivity varies from person to person, a gastroenterologist can help best identify IBS triggers. A gastroenterologist can also and discuss options for managing symptoms with or without medication. More serious signs of IBS including weight loss, pain that isn’t relieved by gas or a bowel movement, fever, vomiting, and iron deficiency. These symptoms might be indicative of colon cancer. Those with a family history of IBS and or mental health issues are at more of a risk for suffering from the condition. In order to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment regiment, it is recommended that you see a specialist in digestive diseases

If you are experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of IBS contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today. Our clinical team of 21 fellowship-trained Gastroenterologists and 13 advanced practice clinicians have been providing care to patients suffering from disorders of the digestive system since 2013. Each of our five locations in the Louisville, Lexington and Southern Indiana area offer expert specialization in gastrointestinal care. Just visit our website to schedule an appointment at the location most convenient to you.

Dr. William Evans Discusses Pancreatitis

Dr. William Evans offers diagnostic and therapeutic care for conditions involving the GI tract, pancreas, and liver.  He provides his patients with comprehensive care that has been honed through years of specialized training and experience.

On this episode of KET’s Kentucky Health, Dr. Evans thoroughly discusses the pancreas as well as pancreatitis.

What is the Pancreas?

The pancreas is an organ that aids in the digestion of food. Located behind the stomach and deep in the abdomen, inflammation of the pancreas can affect all the important organs that surround it and even cause paralysis of the intestines. The two main functions of the pancreas are to regulate blood sugar and to make a enzyme fluid that helps digest any proteins or fats that are consumed. Pancreatitis is a disease that occurs when the pancreas becomes inflamed.

Causes of Pancreatitis 

  • Excessive Alcohol Abuse
  • Certain Medications
  • High Cholesterol
  • Gallstones or Gallbladder Disease (The most common cause.)
  • Virus or Traumatic Injury: (While not very common, viruses or traumatic injuries can result in pediatric cases of pancreatitis.) 
  • Distended Belly or Bloating (Present in more significant cases due to inflammation.)

Symptoms of Pancreatitis 

  • Abdominal Pain (Severe and focused on one’s back, especially triggered when eating.)
  • Nausea or Vomiting

Acute Vs. Chronic Pancreatitis 

Anyone can have acute pancreatitis. The most common cause of acute pancreatitis is trapped gallstones blocking the flow of pancreatic juice. In acute pancreatitis, inflammation can be so profound that the organ digests itself. Long term complications include a severe episode where one must be admitted to a hospital and kept for a few days, the death of the pancreas itself, a build up fluid that can become infected, as well as an impact on multiple other organs.

Chronic pancreatitis is most commonly associated with risk factors such as regular alcohol or tobacco use. Chronic pancreatitis can take months to develop and is often asymptomatic. In chronic pancreatitis cases, scar tissue builds up in the pancreas surrounding the nerves and causing pain. Overtime, one can lose function of the gland as well as the ability to digest food, and are at an increased risk for diabetes as well as pancreatic cancer. 

Pancreatic cancer is the 4th leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States affecting those 45 or older. Signs of pancreatitis cancer include unexplained weight loss, a history of smoking, no obvious cause of pancreatitis, and a family history of the disease.   

Diagnosing & Treating Pancreatitis

Diagnosing pancreatitis often involves a basic exam, medical history, lab work and imaging. A CT scan of the abdomen can show if a stone is causing blockage or if a tumor is present. If a gallstone is a factor, an endoscopy may be required. With little if any food intake, pancreatitis usually takes 3-5  days to resolve, and an additional 6 weeks for the pancreas itself to normalize.

In order to avoid pancreatitis, abstaining from smoking and drinking is recommended. Educating one’s self on gallstones is also a helpful resource in preventative care, as one can have them removed if they become problematic.

Watch the full episode of Dr. William Evans on Kentucky Health here: 


Dr. William Evans earned his Medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies.  He completed his clinical training at the University of Louisville, where he completed an Internship, a Residency in Internal Medicine, and Fellowship in Gastroenterology.  During his fellowship training, Dr. Evans also earned a Masters in Science & Clinical Investigation at the University of Louisville School of Public Health & Information Sciences.  Dr. Evans went on to complete a second Fellowship in Therapeutic Endoscopy at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Florida.

 

Prevent Colorectal Cancer: Get Screened

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. It’s expected to kill more than 50,000 Americans this year alone. The good news? If caught early, the survival rate is very high.

Colorectal Cancer in the U.S.

That’s why screening for colorectal cancer is so important. Screening is generally recommended for all average-risk patients aged 50-75.

People who have a family member with colorectal cancer or polyps are at increased risk and might need to start screening before age 50.

High-risk factors include a personal history of polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic ulcerative colitis, or a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.

What are the Options for Screening?

There are four main ways to screen for colorectal cancer:

Colonoscopy: Colonoscopy uses a flexible, lighted tool called a colonoscope to view the entire colon and remove cancerous and precancerous growths called polyps if they are detected.
Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): This test checks the stool for tiny amounts of blood given off by polyps or colorectal cancer.
CT colonography: This involves a CT scanner and computer programs to create a three-dimensional view of the inside of the colon and rectum that can be used to identify polyps or cancer.
Cologuard: This tests the stool for tiny amounts of blood and identifies altered DNA from cancer or polyps that end up in the stool.

Colonoscopy is The Best Colorectal Screening Method

Which Screening Option is Best?

Preventing cancer should always be the first goal. Most colorectal cancers begin as polyps. Finding, quantifying, localizing, and removing polyps through screening colonoscopy is the most effective strategy for preventing colorectal cancer. That’s why colonoscopy remains the gold standard for colon cancer screening.

The Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer recommends that physicians should offer colonoscopy first. For patients who decline to have a colonoscopy, the FIT test should be offered next, followed by second-tier tests such as Cologuard and CT colonography for patients who decline both first-line options.

A 2014 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine of 10,000 patients found that screening colonoscopy was better at finding cancer than both Cologuard and the FIT test. FIT and Cologuard were also not as good as colonoscopy at finding pre-cancerous polyps – and unlike colonoscopy, FIT and Cologuard can’t remove polyps.

Cologuard missed 1 in 13 people who had colorectal cancer detected by screening colonoscopy. Cologuard also missed more than 30 percent of polyps that will soon be cancer and almost 60 percent of polyps that may become cancer.

The FIT test missed almost 1 in 4 people who had colorectal cancer detected by screening colonoscopy. FIT also missed more than 50 percent of polyps that will soon be cancer and more than 75 percent of polyps that may become cancer.

Which Colorectal Screen Test is Most Effective

Check with Your Insurance Provider

Patients may also have insurance considerations when choosing a test. A follow-up colonoscopy is recommended for positive FIT and Cologuard tests. Individuals with a positive FIT test or Cologuard test who are covered by Medicare may face a costly co-insurance bill after the recommended follow-up colonoscopy.

While insurance covers 100 percent of the preventive screening test, a follow-up colonoscopy for a positive FIT or Cologuard is considered a diagnostic or therapeutic service and may not be fully covered.

Almost one in six people who use the Cologuard test will have a positive result that suggests the presence of colorectal cancer. For almost half of those patients (45 percent), the colonoscopy will show their result from the Cologuard test was a false positive.

Check with your insurance provider before you are screened. Ask how much you should expect to pay if you need a follow-up colonoscopy for a positive FIT or Cologuard test result. This can help you avoid surprise costs.

Insurance Coverage for Colorectal Screening

Talk with Your Doctor

There are several ways to be screened. Remember, Colonoscopy is the gold standard, but if you’re unable to be screened by colonoscopy there are other appropriate options. Talk with your primary care physician about which screening test is best for you and do research about the available options to ensure you’re choosing the best test according to science.

Early Detection and Straight Talk

Dr. David Dresner, MDDavid Dresner, MD, gastroenterologist with Gastroenterology Health Partners in New Albany, Indiana, speaks to his patients in clear and simple terms, no hyperbole, just direct.

“I’m very blunt with my patients,” he says. “Folks understand when you speak to them in plain, simple language. So, when I say ‘You’re trying to pass five pounds of mud through a one-pound hole,’ they understand what I’m saying.”

That’s how he describes a blockage in the colon to the patients he treats who have colon cancer. So, when Dresner says he’s genuinely excited about the progress being made in colon cancer survival rates, you can trust it’s not false enthusiasm or misplaced optimism.

“We are putting a distinct notch into colon cancer mortality,” he says. “Without any question, we are making a dent and people are living longer.”

Dresner comes by his love for finding solutions to problems naturally. His father was a nuclear physicist and his mother was a schoolteacher. Dresner grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and attended Washington University in St. Louis, earning a degree in biology. From there, he attended the University of Tennessee Medical School in Memphis via the U.S. Navy’s Health Professions Scholarship Program. Per the program regulations, he remained on inactive reserve while attending medical school, except for six weeks of active duty per year. After completing medical school, he had a four-year obligation of service to the Navy.

Dresner completed his internship, residency, and fellowship at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia. He then served as a medical officer on a ship for about 14 months in 1984–85, including participating in the bombing of Benghazi in March of 1985.

“We were off the coast of Lebanon when the journalist Terry Anderson was kidnapped,” Dresner says. “We spent about three months floating around off the coast of Beirut as a platform waiting for negotiations to get him successfully released. They finally flew him onto our ship and from our ship on to the carrier.”

Having completed 10 years of active duty, Dresner was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1994. With a wife and three children under the age of six, it was time to come home. A recruiter connected him with Gastroenterology of Southern Indiana, and he joined in 1994.

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