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Understanding Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. Crohn’s can occur in any area of the digestive tract from mouth to anus, but most often affects the lower small intestine. 

Here’s what you need to know about Crohn’s Disease. 

Causes and Risk Factors

The cause of Crohn’s disease isn’t fully understood. It may be due to an abnormal immune response to a microorganism, where the immune system injures cells in the digestive tract. Heredity may also be a cause, as Crohn’s is more common for people with a family history of the disease. However, most people with the disease do not have a family history of it. 

There are some risk factors for Crohn’s that are important to be aware of too. Age plays a role- you are most likely to develop Crohn’s before the age of 30. Smoking can cause Crohn’s to increase in severity. Using NSAID’s like ibuprofen can cause inflammation in the bowels and worsen symptoms. Higher fat and processed foods seem to increase the odds of developing Crohns. Having a family member with Crohn’s is a significant risk factor as well- around 1 in 5 people with a family history of Crohn’s disease will develop it themselves. 

Symptoms

As a chronic disease, Crohn’s often affects people differently over time. Flare-ups and periods of remission are common. Disease severity varies widely, with cases ranging from mild to severe. In severe cases, Crohn’s can affect multiple layers of the intestine, while other times some layers may remain healthy. 

Some of the most common symptoms are persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, an urgent need to defecate, weight loss, and a loss of appetite. More severe complications may develop from the disease. These include anal fissures, strictures, and fistulas. Crohn’s disease also increases the risk of colon cancer.

Diagnosis

Crohn’s disease is usually diagnosed after a process of ruling out other explanations for symptoms. Diagnostics are done through several types of testing. Blood tests can check for anemia or infection. A colonoscopy can provide a view of the colon and give the opportunity for tissue samples doctors can check for clusters of inflammatory cells. Additionally, an MRI, CT scan, capsule endoscopy, or balloon-assisted enteroscopy may be pursued depending on the situation. 

Treatment

Treating Crohn’s centers on reducing inflammation, increasing periods of remission, and decreasing flare-ups. Treatment plans vary based on each person’s situation. Several types of medication can help decrease inflammation, including aminosalicylates, corticosteriods, immunomodulators, and biologic therapies. Many of these medicines decrease inflammation by targeting and reducing aspects of the immune system. Another type of treatment for more severe Crohn’s is bowel rest. This can entail intravenous (IV) nutrition or a feeding tube over the course of days or weeks. 

Surgery is another common treatment for people with Crohn’s disease. While surgery won’t cure the disease, it can significantly improve symptoms and decrease complications. Surgical procedures can treat fistulas, internal obstructions, and life-threatening bleeding. Some procedures can even remove part of the small or large intestine. Sometimes patients need to have their entire colon and rectum removed through a surgery called a proctocolectomy. During this procedure, surgeons also create an opening in the abdomen called a stoma. A removable collection pouch (called an ostomy pouch) then collects stool outside of the body. 

While there is no cure for Crohn’s, there are a multitude of ways medical professionals can help people manage the disease and live healthier lives. 

Our experienced team at GHP has years of experience helping patients manage and treat Crohn’s disease. We can help you establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations to learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

 

Peptic Ulcer Disease: What You Need To Know

Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD) occurs when a person has chronic peptic ulcers. Peptic ulcers are sores in the stomach or duodenum lining that develop when stomach acid deteriorates the lining. There are several treatment options available for PUD based on the cause of the disease in a particular person. 

Here’s what you need to know about Peptic Ulcer Disease. 

Causes and Risk Factors 

PUD is usually caused by one of two things. First, a bacterial infection from a bacteria called H. pylori can lead to inflammation in stomach lining and eventually cause ulcers. H. pylori can be transmitted from human-to-human contact, food, or water. Second, the long-term use of anti-inflammatory medications including ibuprofen and aspirin can lead to PUD because these medications can inflame the stomach lining. 

Risk factors associated with Peptic Ulcer Disease include smoking, which can increase risk of ulcers for people infected with H. pylori, and drinking, which can wear away mucus in the stomach lining and increase stomach acid production. 

Symptoms

Common symptoms of Peptic Ulcer Disease include burning stomach pain, nausea, heartburn, bloating, and fatty food intolerance. Burning stomach pain is the most common symptom, and having an empty stomach typically increases pain. While pain may be relieved by eating foods that help buffer stomach acid or taking anti-acid medication, it usually comes back between meals and at night. Notably, while spicy foods and stress may worsen symptoms, they do not cause ulcers. More severe symptoms can include vomiting blood, blood in stool, feeling faint, and trouble breathing. People with severe symptoms should seek medical attention. 

Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose PUD through a combination of a person’s medical history, symptoms, medication history, and tests. One test, an endoscopy, uses a hollow tube with an attached lens to view the throat, stomach, and small intestine to visually detect ulcers. Additionally, doctors often perform a test by blood sample, stool sample, or breath test to determine if H. pylori is present. A tissue sample from an endoscopy may also be used in this case. If an ulcer is found during an endoscopy, doctors may take a tissue sample for a biopsy. Lastly, an x-ray is sometimes used for diagnosis- patients drink barium prior to an x-ray to allow doctors to see internal organ detail. 

Treatment 

Treatments for PUD vary. For ulcers caused by H. pylori, antibiotics can help kill the bacterium through two weeks of treatment. Thereafter, antacid medication may be used to control stomach acid for the patient. Another treatment utilizes proton pump inhibitors, medications that reduce stomach acid by blocking cell production of acid. Another medication group used for treatment is H2 blockers, which reduce stomach acid along with reducing pain and helping healing. Lastly, antacids, medications that neutralize stomach acid, may be used to help relieve symptoms. 

Lifestyle changes are also an important part of treating Peptic Ulcer Disease. Avoiding smoking and alcohol can help reduce risk factors that lead to and worsen PUD. Managing stress can help too- relaxation and exercise can help lower stomach acid production. Lastly, changing diet can help treat PUD too. Unhealthy choices like junk food, fried food, and processed foods make it harder to heal, while whole grains, fresh produce, and fresh fruit may promote healing. 

Our experienced team at GHP can help you get the treatment you deserve for PUD. We can help you establish the best plan of care for your situation. Contact any of our office locations learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

5 Things to Know About Ulcerative Colitis

Ulcerative Colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive tract. When someone has UC, ulcers form where inflammation has injured cells lining the colon and these ulcers eventually may bleed and create pus. This can lead to the colon needing to be emptied frequently. 

While there is no cure, healthcare professionals can help patients with Ulcerative Colitis pursue proven treatment options for managing their symptoms, and researchers continue to study the disease. Here are 5 things to know about Ulcerative Colitis. 

Causes and Risk Factors

Medical understanding of the cause of Ulcerative Colitis is limited. There are two primary causes of UC that researchers are working to understand. 

First, it could be related to your immune system. A virus or bacterium might trigger UC because of inflammation from an immune response. Some developing research may support this theory. In a recent study, Stanford researchers found that a group of patients with Ulcerative Colitis had a depleted amount of a specific family of bacteria that produces anti-inflammatory substances. 

A second possible cause of Ulcerative Colitis is related to hereditary factors. There is evidence that UC is more common in people with family histories of the disease, so family history is considered a risk factor. However, most people with the disease do not have a family history, so it is not considered a proven cause of UC. 

Types

There are several types of Ulcerative Colitis, each of which is classified by location in the digestive tract. Ulcerative Proctitis is a classification for UC where inflammation is confined to the rectum. Proctosigmoiditis is a type where inflammation occurs in the rectum and lower end of the colon. Left-sided Colitis is when inflammation extends further into the descending colon. Pancolitis is a classification for inflammation that goes beyond just the descending colon and often affects the entire colon. Lastly, Fulminant Colitis is an acute life-threatening form of UC that affects the entire colon.

Symptoms 

Symptoms of Ulcerative Colitis can vary by type and degree of the disease. Loose and urgent bowel movements, bloody stool, abdominal pain and cramps, and persistent diarrhea are common symptoms. Outside of the intestine, symptoms may include fever, nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Often times, symptoms will not be constant. Flare-ups are a common occurrence for people with UC, as are remission periods without symptoms.

Diagnosis

Patients are advised to see a medical professional if they are experiencing persistent changes in their bowel habits or other Ulcerative Colitis symptoms. When a patient is tested for UC, there are several possible approaches. Blood tests, barium enemas, CT scans, colonoscopies, and flexible sigmoidoscopies can all be used to diagnose UC. 

Treatment

Treatment for UC is focused on managing symptoms, as there is no known cure. A combination of medications and lifestyle changes is often helpful, including anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, corticosteriods, avoiding gassy foods, managing stress, and staying hydrated. If these measures do not relieve symptoms, surgery may be recommended by a doctor. Surgery typically means removing the entire colon and rectum. 

Ulcerative Colitis can often be effectively managed with professional guidance and care. GHP is dedicated to helping patients with UC manage their symptoms and live healthy, happy, and full lives. Contact any of our office locations learn about the options we offer and schedule an appointment today.

What is Infusion Therapy?

When people become severely sick or weighed down by compound disease conditions, oftentimes they have difficulty swallowing. This can make seemingly simple things like eating, drinking and taking medications difficult.

Additionally, certain medications may not be recommended orally since an individual’s stomach acids may affect their quality, rendering them ineffective when it comes to treating diseases.

There are many reasons why people may receive medication through their body instead of their mouth (orally).

What is Infusion Therapy?

Infusion therapy is an alternative to oral treatment that entails the administration of drugs or medicine through a sterile catheter or needle. These are often introduced into a patient’s vein and secured by a professional healthcare provider. This treatment option has been used for a long time by hospitals.

Increasingly, infusion therapy is also applied in outpatient healthcare settings and community care centers, by specialized nurses who are professionally trained to carry out this procedure. At Gastroenterology Health Partners, our outpatient infusion center is available to patients in a convenient and higher quality setting, with no wait time and ample appointment availability. Depending on one’s insurance carrier and plan, this procedure can often be done at a lower cost, with the benefit of getting to know the same infusion RN over time.

What Medical Conditions Does Infusion Therapy Treat?

Infusion therapy is primarily used to treat severe or chronic diseases and infections that may not respond to oral antibiotics. There are many examples of disease conditions and infections that are treated continuously using infusion therapy. This includes different types of cancers, gastrointestinal tract infections, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

An Overview of What to Expect with Outpatient Infusion Treatment

There are a couple of factors that you need to expect with outpatient infusion treatment or therapy.

The infusion process typically lasts for an hour, but this does vary. The time taken during this therapy is based on the type of medication administered and also the kind of illness or infection being treated. While some medicines require more extended periods of infusion, others take a short time.

Dosage also dictates the length of infusion. In some cases, patients receive their infusion dosage slowly, especially for their first time. Whereas for others, it may take a longer length of time. This may be done to confirm that a patient doesn’t develop adverse reactions to the medication offered via infusion.

Prior to the administration of infusion therapy, there is also some preparation. This might involve recording a patient’s blood pressure, weight, height, and body temperature.

Prior to infusion therapy your doctor might ask you to prepare by drinking a specific amount of water. You may also be advised to wear comfortable clothing for the procedure.

As an infusion patient, you have a choice in deciding a location for your infusion therapy. Cost and convenience are critical to this decision.  GHP offers the convenience of this service to its patients at a cost which is far lower than an inpatient setting. Contact any of our office locations to reach a dedicated infusion therapy concierge to confirm options available to you based on your specific health plan.

Understanding IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a disorder of the digestive tract that results in chronic inflammation. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are the two most common forms of IBD. Ulcerative colitis specifically affects the colon and rectum while Crohn’s disease inflames all areas of the gastrointestinal tract. While a direct cause is not known, inflammatory bowel disease is thought to be a result of an abnormal immune response that causes the immune system to attack the digestive track.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Blood in stool
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain and cramping
  • Lack of childhood development

While one’s stress and diet may not be directly causing inflammation, lifestyle changes can help to relieve symptoms. Avoid dairy products and other problematic foods to see how they affect your flare-ups. Additionally, while fiber is known to help with bowel issues, it could behaving an adverse effect. Drink plenty of water and experiment with more frequent smaller meals.

Risk Factors

  • Age: Most patients are diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease before the age of 30.
  • Race & Ethnicity: Caucasians and those of Ashkenazi Jewish decent are at the most risk for inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Family History: Those with a first-degree relative who have suffered from IBD are more likely to develop it themselves.
  • Cigarette Smoking: IBD is most common among smokers.
  • Medications: Anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, Advil and Aleve have been known to aggravate IBD.
  • Environment: The disease tends to affect those who live in more urbanized and developed areas as well as northern climates.

Patients who are experiencing signs of IBD or know that they are at an increased risk for developing it should take preventive measures by routinely checking in with a healthcare professional. Having IBD increases your risk for colon cancer and blood clots.

Although there is no cure for inflammatory bowel disease, medication is an effective treatment option for those with ulcerative colitis. However, 70% of those with Crohn’s disease often require surgery in order to relieve their symptoms.

If you or a loved one feels they could have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologist today.

October’s MD Update: Dr. Jones Speaks “Going on Offense Against Cancer”

Our very own Dr. Whitney Jones graced the cover of MD-Update’s October issue.  Read about how he embraces preventative measures to beat colon cancer before it starts in the following article.

“We spend a lot of money on healthcare and health insurance. The problem is, we’re not spending enough on prevention.”— Whitney Jones, MD

 In the movie “Karate Kid,” there’s a scene where Mr. Miyagi asks the title character if he’s training to fight. In his light bulb moment, the student responds that he trains, “So I won’t have to fight.”

Make no mistake, Whitney Jones, MD, knows how to treat cancer. He’s trained for it and has years of experience in it. But it’s a fight he would prefer doesn’t take place.

“We’re going on offense against cancer,” says Jones, a gastroenterologist at Gastroenterology Health Partners (GHP) in Louisville. “We are working on becoming the number one state and the first in the nation to develop programs where we can use genetic testing. We spend a lot of money on healthcare and health insurance. The problem is, we’re not spending enough on prevention. The cost of cancer treatments totally overwhelms the cost of prevention.”

That has been the central message and purpose of the Kentucky Colon Cancer Prevention Project, which Jones helped found in 2004. The project’s work includes education, advocacy, survivor support, and health system change.

“It put the work of the state in front of the legislature,” Jones says, noting that a diverse group of leaders from across the state formed the project’s advisory committee. “It added a mix of healthcare, politics, and business that was catalytic.”

The project has received state funding as well as additional funding from the Kentucky Cancer Foundation, which Jones also helped found in 2012. “We have helped pay for a lot of uninsured people to get colorectal cancer screening,” Jones says.

The impact of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project is reflected in the state’s improvement versus the rest of the country. Jones notes that Kentucky ranked 49th out of 50 in the nation in colon cancer prevention statistics when the project was launched. The state also had the highest rates of incidence and mortality in the nation. Earlier this year, Kentucky ranked 17th best in the nation in the same colon cancer related categories and earned an American Cancer Society Achievement Award for the most improved state in the nation for colorectal screening over the past 15 years.

“When we started our work at the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, there was a huge gap between what could be done and what we were doing,” Jones says. “It’s been a broad coalition, including many of our state leaders and city officials. I think it’s proven that Kentucky can address its own problems, we can develop solutions, we can implement them locally, and we can save lives and save money.”

Read the full article here:

Common Causes of Constipation

Constipation is often defined by tough, hard to pass bowel movements that occur infrequently. Other signs and symptoms include bloating, having the sensation of an incomplete evacuation, abdominal pain and blood present in the stool.

While constipation is known for being both physically uncomfortable and embarrassing, the condition is more common than one might think. Constipation affects approximately 30 percent of the general population, and is most prevalent in women, children and the elderly. Persistent constipation should not be ignored as it could be the sign of a more serious condition, such as colon cancer or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

What are some of the Common Causes of Constipation ?

Dehydration

“If you don’t have enough water in your body already, the large intestine soaks up water from your food waste,” making for harder to pass stools. Caffeine can cause dehydration, and even dairy has been known to constipate some people. Proper hydration however, can help move food through the intestines and create softer stools.

Lack of Fiber

Fiber encourages regular bowel movements by allowing more water to remain in your stool and hastening it’s passage through the gut. Foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts are the best natural source of fiber. However, fiber supplements can be helpful as well.

Stress

Just like most of your bodily functions, the nervous system is in constant communication with your digestive system. During periods of intense stress, the digestive system can slow down resulting in constipation. Waiting too long to go to the bathroom for example, can cause a build up.

Not Enough Physical Activity 

Regular activity helps to stimulate the muscles in intestines and can also help alleviate stress.

Medication

Though laxatives can help ease constipation, they can also become habit forming meaning that one’s bowel movements end up depending on them. Overusing laxatives can over time can weaken the bowel muscles. Additionally, many anti-depressants and pain medications are common causes of constipation. It is recommended that any and all medications should be discussed with your doctor.

While many lifestyle changes can help to relieve constipation, if you experience chronic constipation, schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologist today.

 

What Triggers Heartburn?

There’s nothing worse than trying to relax while experiencing a gnawing burning sensation in the chest. These uncomfortable chest pains, other wise known as heartburn, are a symptom of Acid Reflux and can be cause for concern. Acid Reflux occurs when stomach acid leaks into the esophagus (the tube that delivers food and beverages to our stomach). Usually a muscle acts as a protective barrier between the esophagus and the stomach to prevent the back flow of acid. However, when this muscle becomes weakened, one can fall victim to the aches and pains of heartburn. If not treated, repeated heartburn can cause damage to the lining of the esophagus.

What Triggers Heartburn?

1. Large Meals

Too much food cans stretch the stomach and put pressure on the muscle that acts as a barrier between the esophagus and stomach, allowing for acid to escape.

2. Late Night Eating

It usually takes your stomach a couple of hours to digest food. By eating right before bed, you run the risk of letting stomach acid back up into the esophagus, keeping you up all night. Sometimes it’s best to sit up and let gravity do the work!

3. Foods High in Fat or Grease

These take longer to break down and as a result your stomach produces more acid.

4. Acidic Foods

Acidic foods tend to either relax or irritate that muscle that controls the flow of our stomach’s acid. Problematic foods include: tomatoes, citrus fruits, coffee, chocolate, spicy foods (garlic or raw onion), mint, salt, alcohol and or carbonated beverages. Foods that tend to relieve heartburn on the other hand are high in fiber. Oatmeal, bananas, grains, green veggies and ginger for example have been known to help reverse the effects of Acid Reflux.

Even certain exercises like crunches, headstands and yoga can trigger heartburn by putting pressure on the stomach or reversing it’s natural flow. 

While these are all common triggers, what sparks heartburn can vary from person to person. To get to the bottom of what’s causing your flare ups, try keeping a journal of your daily symptoms, meals and exercises. Also consider asking your doctor if any of the medications you’re on could be playing a role. If the problem persists, it’s time to schedule an appointment with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologists.

 

 

2019 Kicking Butt 5K Event Saves Lives

Kicking Butt 5k at the waterfront Dr. Whitney Jones at the 2019 Kicking Butt 5K

Thank you to everyone who came out and participated in this year’s Kicking Butt 5K! Survivors, fighters, advocates, healthcare providers and community partners all came together on what turned out to be a beautiful Saturday to help raise awareness of colon cancer. Gastroenterology Health Partners was proud to be one of the many sponsors who made this event possible. The Waterfront Park and Big Four Bridge were gracious hosts!

2019 Kicking Butt 5K booths Gastro Health Partners at the 2019 Kicking Butt 5k

The Kicking Butt 5k is an annual race put on courtesy of the Colon Cancer Prevention Project. Our very own physician Dr. Whitney Jones founded the Colon Cancer Prevention Project in 2004.  All of the funds raised as a result of the event go towards supporting their mission of eliminating preventable colon cancer death and suffering. The Project’s resources span from education and advocacy, to health systems improvement and survivor support. While colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, many don’t understand how preventable it is. A donation of $50 can help reach over 100 people who may need to be screened for colon cancer.

5K at the big four bridge 5k at the Louisville Waterfront Park

While the 5k is over, donations can still be made online. For more information on when you or a loved one should start the screening process, schedule an appointment with us online. We have a clinical team of 21 fellowship-trained Gastroenterologists and 13 advanced practice clinicians. All of which conveniently serve the Louisville, Lexington, Kentucky and Southern Indiana communities.

 

Hemorrhoid Banding

Believe it or not, hemorrhoids are a common health concern. The condition affects 75% of people at some point in their lives. While home remedies or topical creams are popular go-to treatment options, they only provide temporary relief. It is typical for example, for a person to suffer from recurrent symptoms and fare-ups after the use of over the counter products. Many patients even avoid seeking further treatment due to fear, embarrassment or a general lack of awareness.

While there are a number of non-invasive methods for treating hemorrhoids, at Gastroenterology Health Partners, we believe in a patient-focused approach. Our clinical team of 21 fellowship-trained Gastroenterologists and 13 advanced practice clinicians are able to remove internal hemorrhoids in a comfortable environment by utilizing the most effective and proven method of hemorrhoid banding available.

What is Hemorrhoid Banding?

Hemorrhoid banding is a non-surgical, quick and painless treatment option. Also known as rubber band ligation, it works by treating the root of the hemorrhoid while eliminating any symptoms. As internal hemorrhoids are made up of swollen blood vessels inside the rectum, patients are often unaware that they have them until they present symptoms such as pain, itching or bleeding.

Our advanced non-surgical treatment option takes just under a minute to perform. It requires no sedation or pain medication, and is covered by most insurance plans. Most patients experience a low rate of hemorrhoid recurrence and return to work the same day as treatment.

How does it work?

A single use, gentle suction device places a specialized rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid where there are no pain-sensitive nerve endings. This band effectively cuts off the blood flow to the hemorrhoid, immediately relieving symptoms. Within a few days, both the band and the hemorrhoid shrink and fall off on their own accord. Often without the patient even noticing.

This particular method of hemorrhoid banding is safer and less invasive than other more traditional banding procedures that utilize larger instruments, or require fasting and sedation before treatment. When using our hemorrhoid banding procedure, less than 1% of patients report complications compared to other rubber band ligation methods where complications can occur in 20-50% of patients.

The signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids are similar to other more serious conditions. Therefore, it’s important that one consults with their doctor before seeking treatment. If not caught early on, hemorrhoids can worsen over time. In order to best prevent hemorrhoids in the future, avoid straining during bowel movements. Drinking plenty of water, getting the correct amount of daily fiber and not sitting for prolonged periods are also recommended.

If you are experiencing some of the signs and symptoms of hemorrhoids, contact Gastroenterology Health Partners today. 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.