Digestive disorders generally fall into two broad categories: functional and structural. In a functional disorder, everything looks normal but still isn’t working properly. Functional disorders are the more common type of digestive disorder and include such well-known examples as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and constipation.
In a structural disorder, the affected part not only doesn’t work right, it also looks abnormal. Colon polyps and hemorrhoids are two common examples of structural digestive disorders.
What Is GERD?
GERD, which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition in which stomach acids often flow back up into the esophagus. While most people experience acid reflux from time to time, a patient is diagnosed with GERD if they have mild acid reflux at least twice a week or moderate to severe acid reflux at least once a week.
Symptoms of GERD can include the following:
- Heartburn, especially after eating
- Trouble swallowing
- Chest pain
- Feeling like there is a lump in the throat
- Regurgitating food or liquid
Some patients may have more symptoms at night that can include laryngitis, chronic cough, asthma, and trouble sleeping. A patient should contact their doctor if they take anti-heartburn medication three or more times a week.
Treatment for GERD will depend on its severity. In most cases, the doctor will recommend over-the-counter medication or lifestyle changes like losing weight or quitting smoking.
What Is Colorectal Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is a cancer that originates in either the colon, which is also known as the large intestine, or the rectum. It is most common in people over 50, and a susceptibility to colorectal cancer can run in families.
Colorectal cancer is insidious, for it often produces no symptoms during its early stages – when it is most easily treated. Similarly, some of the symptoms associated with colorectal cancer, such as diarrhea or flatulence, often seem benign.
During the later stages of the cancer, the patient may develop symptoms like vomiting, extreme weakness, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight loss, changes in their stools that last for over a month, and a sensation that their bowels aren’t completely empty.
Colorectal cancer usually starts after the patient develops abnormal growths called polyps in their colon. While initially benign, the polyps can turn cancerous.
Colorectal cancer is both common and potentially lethal. A doctor will typically have a patient undergo a screening procedure called a colonoscopy sometime after they turn 50. During a colonoscopy, the doctor will insert a thin tube with a camera called a colonoscope up the patient’s digestive tract to examine the walls of their colon. The procedure takes 30 to 60 minutes, and the patient will be given sedatives to keep them comfortable.