A gastroenterologist is a doctor who treats disorders of the gastrointestinal tract, which includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, the small intestine, the colon, the anus, as well as related organs such as the liver. In short, gastroenterologists prevent and treat stomach and digestive problems.
When to Seek Help
The digestive system is complex and essential, responsible for breaking down and absorbing food and liquid. This process involves the presence of the right balance of chemicals, enzymes, and bacteria; healthy, intact tissues; and a clear path through the tract. Many diseases and disorders can affect this system, from cancer to irritable bowel disease to infection.
At your routine annual physical, your primary care doctor will physically examine your abdomen, as well as ask you questions about your gastrointestinal functioning. If necessary, you may be referred to a gastroenterologist. However, it's a good idea for people to be aware of some common issues that indicate seeing a gastroenterologist is a good idea:
- Sudden changes in bowel habits
- Risk factors for colon cancer, such as a personal or family history
- Over age 50
- Persistent abdominal pain (seek emergency care for pain that is extremely sudden and severe)
- Blood in stool
- Rectal bleeding
- Bowel leakage
- Poor control of bowel movements
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Esophageal pain
A single incident of common issues like heartburn, vomiting, or constipation does not warrant medical care; however, a pattern of these issues, or a single incident of more severe issues like rectal bleeding, means that seeking a specialist in gastroenterology is necessary.
Open Access Clinic
The Gastroenterology Associates operate an Open Access Clinic (OAC) which allows patients to be seen in a free evaluation, without a primary care physician referral. Patients eligible for one of these free evaluations may be able to eliminate the pre-op appointment that is occasionally not covered by insurance. Patients should meet the following criteria in order to be eligible for the free evaluation visit in the OAC:
- Must be 50 years of age or have a family history of colon cancer or colon polyps
- Must be in general good health
- No previous colonoscopy or 5-7 years since last colonoscopy
- If medical problems are detected during this screening visit, patients will be scheduled for an evaluation by one of our physicians
It is worth noting that the patient has the right to specify where they would like to have their procedures done. There are many advantages to having gastroenterological procedures completed with the Gastroenterology Associates, in the state-of-the-art facilities and with all board certified or board eligible specialists in the field of gastroenterology. Also housed in the Digestive Health Center with Gastroenterology Associates is the Louisiana Endoscopy Center, another superior facility accessible for patients and physicians.
It's important to find a gastroenterology doctor with the skills and resources to give you effective, comprehensive treatment and diagnosis. One of the biggest indicators of a doctor's quality is whether or not they are board-certified or board-eligible with a clean disciplinary record - that is the minimum qualification any doctor should have to be considered.
Diagnosing and treating gastrointestinal issues requires access to diagnostic equipment and outpatient surgical units. It's a good idea to look for a doctor with centralized access to these resources, because care is quicker and more effective when it is more centralized. Resources like a research division are also a good indicator of quality.
Patients should also look at the philosophy espoused by the physician and their attitude towards individual patients. There are many lifestyle changes that can be taken to improve and prevent gastrointestinal disorders, as well as screening techniques to prevent the development of serious conditions like colon cancer. Look for a doctor who demonstrates a caring interest in encouraging lifestyle changes, and who focuses on preventative care whenever possible.
To schedule a consultation with one of the best gastroenterologists in Baton Rouge, please give us a call at (225) 927-1190 or simply click here.
We have prepared a FREE downloadable whitepaper on Why I Should Visit A Gastroenterologist? If you are considering scheduling an appointment at one of our three locations- Baton Rouge, Zachary, or Livingston- this whitepaper may help to arm you with just a bit more information on who and why a patient would choose a gastroenterologist.
Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician. Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.