Posted: Monday, May 14, 2018

Persistent Digestive Issues Could Mean Something More

No one likes to talk about digestive problems. Most of us believe that such topics are better kept private. But not talking about them can lead to unnecessary suffering, particularly when there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the problem and make your life better. Such is the case with inflammatory bowel diseases, or IBD, a term used to describe conditions in which the body’s immune system attacks parts of the digestive system. The most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. While there is no cure, treatments are available to reduce and control IBD symptoms and improve quality of life.

“IBD is a very serious chronic inflammatory condition affecting the gastrointestinal tract,” said Blount Memorial board-certified gastroenterologist Dr. William Lyles.

“Ulcerative colitis involves the mucosal surface of the colon only, while Crohn’s disease can involve all bowel layers of the entire GI tract. There can be times, however, when there is overlap of both diseases,” he said.

According to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA), the most common symptoms of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are frequent and/or urgent bowel movements, diarrhea, bloody stool, abdominal pain and cramping. People with IBD also may experience anemia, fatigue, lack of appetite and weight loss. Although the disease is chronic, patients do experience periods of remission, when little or no symptoms are present. Since many IBD symptoms are shared by people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or IBS, Celiac disease and other conditions affecting the GI tract, getting an accurate diagnosis is key. Gastroenterologists are experts in identifying and treating IBD. Diagnostic tests may include blood tests to identify the presence of inflammation in the body, stool samples and endoscopic procedures. Treatment plans may include medications to reduce inflammation, dietary changes and psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or hypnotherapy, to help manage pain, reduce stress and cope with the disease.

“Doctors and patients need to take IBD very seriously, and work hand-in-hand to provide the best opportunity for successful treatment. We educate our patients about the symptoms and prognosis of their disease, and treat IBD using the most up-to-date information and medications. However, we also require our patients to come to office appointments, as well as get all labs and appropriate studies done,” Lyles explained.

For the estimated 1.4 million adults in the United States living with IBD, being under the care of a gastroenterologist is particularly important during periods of active illness or flares. Without rapid access to a gastroenterologist, flares can result in an emergency room visit.

“We treat our patients with IBD with the highest priority,” Lyles said. “Most of our patients are on very advanced medications requiring close supervision. It is better for us to evaluate them than send them to the ER, unless it is totally necessary.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Lyles, call Smoky Mountain Gastroenterology at 865-980-5060.

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