Common Conditions

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Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is a common term for several afflictions that involve damage to the liver. Cirrhosis of the liver, for example, is a condition where scar tissue blocks the flow of blood through the liver. Primary biliary cirrhosis is a disease that breaks down the liver’s bile ducts, causing bile to build up in the liver, damaging liver tissues. As the disease worsens, multiple symptoms may emerge, and can even result in the liver stopping entirely. The earliest symptoms of cirrhosis are itchy skin and fatigue, followed by worsening symptoms, such as jaundice, fatty deposits under the skin, dry mouth, dry eyes, and other signs of fluid retention.

Colitis

Colitis is the medical term for the inflammation of the colon. There are many types of colitis, depending on its general cause or its specific effect on the colon. Some types of colitis include ischemic colitis, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, chemical colitis, microscopic colitis and infectious colitis. Obviously, with such varied types of colitis, there are many possible causes, including infections, ingested toxins or chemicals, poor diet, poor blood supply, and diseases. Regardless of the type or cause, many cases of colitis share similar symptoms, including pain, blood in the stool, a constant urge to have a bowel movement, or unexplained fever or chills.

Constipation

Constipation, though it can sometimes be undesirable for patients to discuss, is a very common problem. It occurs when bowel movements are difficult to pass or infrequent. While the normal time between bowel movements will vary from person to person, not having more than three bowel movements per week can be a sign of constipation, as well as straining during bowel evacuations more than 25% of the time, and the sensation of incomplete bowel evacuation. Constipation can have many causes, such as a diet with insufficient water or fiber, stress, medications, or a disruption of regular diet or routine. It can also be a symptom of much more serious gastrointestinal problems, including colorectal cancer.

Diverticulitis

Small, bulging pouches – called diverticula – can form anywhere along your digestive system, from your esophagus to your colon. When these pouches become infected or inflamed, it is a condition known as diverticulitis. What causes these diverticula to form and become inflamed is unclear, though researchers think it could be related to a low-fiber diet: low amounts of fiber in the diet causes the muscles in the digestive tract to work harder to push the food through the system, and the increased pressure and work may cause pouches to form on weak spots in the digestive tract. Diverticulitis can be confirmed through blood tests, X-rays or other screening tests, but the most common symptom is pain, particularly in the lower left side of the abdomen.

Gallstones

The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ just below the liver that holds bile from the liver and delivers it to the small intestine. Gallstones are hard, crystalline deposits of cholesterol or digestive fluid that form in the gallbladder, and can vary in size anywhere from as small as a single grain of sand to the size of a golf ball. A common condition, many gallstones cause no symptoms, and usually require no treatment. However, a gallstone can in some cases block a bile or pancreatic duct, which can be symptomatic and even in some rare cases life-threatening, and therefore requires treatment.

Gastritis

Gastritis is the medical term for the inflammation of the lining of the stomach. Gastritis can either be sudden (acute) or accrue over a long period of time (chronic). Gastritis can have many causes – common causes include heavy alcohol use, excessive vomiting, bacterial infections, regular use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) such as aspirin and ibuprofen, stress, acid reflux, and autoimmune disorders. Most cases of gastritis are temporary and can be alleviated with over-the-counter antacids or changes in diet (such as avoid greasy and spicy foods). For more severe or chronic cases of gastritis, prescriptions are available that can help reduce the stomach’s ability to produce acid in the stomach.

GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as gastric reflux disease and acid reflux disease, is a chronic digestive condition caused by the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus. When food is swallowed, a small ring of muscle, called the esophageal sphincter, opens to allow food into the stomach and then closes. When this muscle weakens or performs abnormally, stomach acid can flow into the esophagus, causing an irritation in the esophageal lining. The most common symptom of this condition is persistent heartburn – a burning sensation in the chest up to the throat. Difficulty swallowing, sore throat, a bitter or sour taste in the mouth, dry coughing and regurgitation can also be signs of acid reflux. If you experience severe or frequent symptoms of GERD, call a doctor.

Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis is an infection in the liver that causes the liver to swell and potentially stop working. There are three major kinds of viral Hepatitis – Hepatitis A, B and C – and prognoses and treatments vary widely depending on the type of Hepatitis contracted. Hepatitis will generally cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, stomach pain, fatigue, nausea and diarrhea, and may also cause other symptoms such as dark urine or yellowed eyes and skin. Hepatitis (depending on the type) can be contracted through blood, bodily fluids or other means.

Peptic Ulcer Disease

Ulcers are a common condition in the country, estimated to strike approximately 10 percent of the entire population of Americans. Ulcers are open sores that appear along the lining of the stomach and small intestine, which causes pain in the area of the sore when it comes into contact with stomach acids. Ulcers were at one time believed to primarily be caused by spicy foods or stress, but we now know that most ulcers are in fact cased by bacterial infections in the digestive system, or in some cases by use (or overuse) of some medications, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s) like aspirin and ibuprofen.