An abdominal obstruction occurs when the small or large intestine becomes partially or completely blocked – most often by a tumor, scar tissue, or narrowing of the intestines. Symptoms include cramping, stomach pain, constipation, inability to pass gas, or diarrhea – obstructions can be treated with enemas, medication, or surgically.
Anemia is a medical condition in which the blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells to deliver sufficient oxygen to the body – causing chronic fatigue. Most anemias are a result of iron deficiency, though anemia can also be due to pregnancy, blood loss, or gastrointestinal conditions (such as ulcers or gastritis).
Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix – a small, finger-like projection on the right side of the abdomen. The inflammation causes acute pain in the abdomen that worsens over 12 to 18 hours, and as the appendix has no real function, appendicitis can be cured by surgical removal.
Barrett’s esophagus occurs when the lining of the esophagus begins to transform into a mucosal lining similar to that of the intestines – it is most commonly associated with GERD (or acid reflux disease). Treatment of GERD symptoms will reduce a patient’s risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus.
Coeliac disease (also spelled celiac disease) is a disease of the digestive system in which the body’s immune system responds to wheat gluten – a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley – by destroying intestinal villi. Sufferers may experience diarrhea, bloating, cramps, gas, and more serious health conditions due to the body’s inability to absorb nutrients. Coeliacs must take care not to consume or use any products that contain wheat gluten.
The term cirrhosis, though commonly associated with alcohol abuse, refers to a disease involving intense and irreversible damage and scarring of the liver – interfering with the body’s ability to filter toxins from the blood. Other causes of cirrhosis include hepatitis B and C, cystic fibrosis, parasites, and problems in the bile ducts.
Constipation occurs when an individual has trouble having bowel movements – stools may be hard, dry, small, or painful and difficult to eliminate. The most common causes of constipation are a low-fiber diet and insufficient fluid intake, though a number of medical conditions and medications can cause chronic constipation.
Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease causing breaks in the lining of the intestinal tract due to overactivation of the immune system. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and weight loss are common symptoms – and though there is no cure, anti-inflammatory medications can be used to treat the disease.
Diverticulosis and Diverticulitis
Diverticulosis refers to the condition of having small pockets in the inner lining of the colon called diverticula, causing colonic spasms. Risk factors include advanced age and a diet low in fiber and high in red meat. Diverticulitis occurs when the diverticula become inflamed – causing pain, fever, and digestive upset. It may be treated with surgery.
A duodenal ulcer is a break in the stomach’s mucosal lining – most stem from peptic ulcer disease and are caused by a bacterial infection called H. pylori. Ulcers can be treated with medication, lifestyle changes, or surgery.
Gallstones (Gallstone Disease)
Gallstones form in the gallbladder – a small organ on top of the liver responsible for storing bile. When bile becomes over-concentrated, it often forms hard “stones” in the gallbladder or bile ducts and causes pain in the upper-right portion of the abdomen. Gallstones can be removed surgically or dissolved with certain medications.
Gastric prolapse is a condition commonly seen in patients who have had laparascopic gastric banding surgery for weight loss (wherein a band is placed around the top of the stomach to reduce its size). In gastric prolapse, a part of the stomach folds upward through the band – this can cause nausea, vomiting, and an inability to eat or drink and should be treated by a doctor.
Gastritis is an inflammation of the lining of the stomach often caused by bacterial infection, certain medications, or autoimmune disorders. Symptoms include stinging or sharp pain in the center of the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, and bloating. Severe cases can cause stomach bleeding and can be treated with medication.
Gastroparesis (or delayed gastric emptying) occurs when the stomach empties its contents into the small intestine too slowly – food stops moving through the digestive tract or moves too slowly. Undigested food can cultivate bacteria or form hard stones called bezoars in the stomach. Symptoms may include heartburn, nausea, bloating, pain, a feeling of fullness, and a lack of appetite.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Commonly known as acid reflux disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease (or GERD) is a chronic condition caused by damage to the mucosal lining of the lower esophagus due to the abnormal entrance of stomach acid. The most common symptoms are heartburn, trouble swallowing, and regurgitation, and the disease can be controlled with diet and medication.
Hemorrhoids occur when the veins in the lining of the rectum become painfully swollen and inflamed. Usually caused by straining during bowel movements or by increased pressure on these veins during pregnancy, hemorrhoids are very common – an estimated 50% of adults over age 50 have experienced them.
Hepatitis B is a virus that causes an inflammatory liver disease called hepatitis. After infection by blood or other contaminated body fluids, patients may develop nausea, vomiting, body aches, jaundice, and other symptoms – infection can interfere with the liver’s ability to filter waste products from the blood. A vaccine is available for hepatitis B.
Hepatitis C is an virus that causes an inflammatory liver disease called hepatitis – the virus interferes with liver function and causes symptoms like nausea, vomiting, jaundice, and body aches. Patients are typically infected by blood-to-blood contact or by sharing needles with an infected person, and there is no vaccine or cure for the virus. The disease can be treated with medication.
A hiatus hernia (or hiatal hernia) is the unwanted protrusion of the upper portion of the stomach through a weakness in the diaphragm – the muscle that separates the heart and lungs from the abdominal cavity. The condition has a wide range of causes – including heavy lifting, pregnancy, obesity, and violent vomiting. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and digestive problems, though many cases present with no symptoms at all.
Inflammatory Bowel Disorders
The term inflammatory bowel disorders (or IBD) refers to a group of conditions causing severe inflammation of the digestive tract, causing abdominal pain and digestive dysfunction. The most common of these disorders are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
An inguinal hernia occurs when a portion of the intestine begins to protrude through a weak point in the abdominal wall – causing pain when coughing or bending over. Inguinal hernias can be repaired surgically.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome, commonly abbreviated as IBS, is a set of uncomfortable digestive symptoms that interfere with the patient’s normal functioning. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation. IBS is a collection of symptoms, not a disease – its cause is unknown and it is often used as a diagnosis for gastrointestinal problems that are otherwise unexplainable.
Liver disease (or hepatic disease) is a broad term used to describe a number of diseases that affect the liver – including hepatitis, cirrhosis, liver cancer, and Wilson’s disease, which causes the body to store large amounts of copper in the liver. Most cases of liver disease present with jaundice, dark circles under the eyes, and other skin problems as well as neurological and digestive problems.
Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas – a gland behind the stomach that secretes insulin and other digestive enzymes. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, and swelling of the abdomen, and severe cases can cause bleeding, infection, or tissue damage. Pancreatitis is more common in men than in women.
Peptic Ulcer Disease
Peptic ulcer disease is a condition in which small open sores called peptic ulcers (or gastric ulcers) develop on the inside lining of the stomach, lower esophagus, or upper small intestine – causing pain, nausea, and heartburn. Though it is commonly thought that ulcers are caused by stress, the most common cause is a bacterial infection called H. pylori. Ulcers can be treated with medication, lifestyle changes, or surgery.
Peritonitis is the inflammation of the peritoneum, a tissue that covers organs in the abdominal cavity and lines the walls of the abdomen. Causing abdominal distention, pain, fever, and nausea, peritonitis requires immediate medical treatment and can be cured surgically and with antibiotics.
Stomach cancer – also called gastric cancer – forms in the tissue of the stomach and spreads easily to the esophagus and lungs. Risk factors include exposure to the H. pylori bacterium, smoking, family history, being male, and prolonged consumption of fried, pickled, or salty foods.
Stomach cramps – medically referred to as abdominal pain – can have a variety of causes and often do not originate in the stomach. Stomach cramps can be caused by pain or a medical condition affecting the small or large intestine, liver, gallbladder, or pancreas as well. Pain can have a number of causes, durations, and associated symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammation of the inner lining of the digestive tract – mostly within the large intestine and rectum. The most common symptoms are abdominal pain and diarrhea, but when left untreated it can cause serious health problems. Though there is no cure for ulcerative colitis, anti-inflammatory drugs can greatly improve the patient’s quality of life.