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Due to complicating medical terminologies, people often spring up alternative names of the complicated one. Such is the case of gastrologist and gastroenterologist. Gastroenterologists are specialists that treat diseases and problems related to the gastrointestinal tract (GI). These specialists can treat everything from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to Hepatitis C. On the other hand, gastrology is an adopted word for gastroenterologist due to the latter being complicated to pronounce. However, as per definition gastrology is the study of stomach and stomach-related problems but it is essentially not a recognized medical speciality. Hence, for patients who experience problems with the stomach or any part of the gastrointestinal tract are required to visit a Gastroenterologist.

Gastrointestinal tract (GI), also commonly known as the digestive tract, alimentary canal, etc. is a combination of organs with the human body that consumes food, processes/digests it to extract and absorb the energy and nutrients from food. This system also is responsible for expelling the waste in the form of faeces from the body. The system comprises of a hollow muscular tube that starts from the oral cavity (where the food enters the mouth) and continues to include the pharynx, esophagus, stomach, intestines, and further till rectum and anus (from where the food is expelled from the body). The GI tract is supported by various organs such as the salivary glands, liver, pancreas and gallbladder, which secrete enzymes that help in breaking and digestion of food.

The GI tract is one of the most important human body organs. It is important because it creates energy for the body from food, removes toxins and waste from the body in the form of faeces. Any gastrointestinal disorder or disease restricts the ideal functioning of the GI tract which causes a lot of health problems. Hence, it is important to know who to visit in case of GI tract issues.

Who is a Gastroenterologist?

Gastroenterologists are specialists that treat digestive, gastrointestinal, as well as liver disorders and diseases in both men and women. These specialists have been specifically trained to diagnose and treat all concerns related to the following organs of the body:

  • Esophagus – the tube connecting the mouth and stomach
  • Stomach
  • Small intestine
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Pancreas
  • Gallbladder
  • Bile ducts
  • Liver
  • Pharynx
  • Large Intestine
  • Salivary Glands
  • Tongue
  • Epiglottis
  • Anus

Gastroenterologists also perform endoscopic procedures using specialised instruments to assess the GI tract and diagnose for any problems.

Focus areas for Gastroenterologists include:

  • Hepatology – diagnosing and treating conditions of the liver, gallbladder, biliary tree and pancreas
  • Pancreatic issues and diseases
  • Transplantation of GI organs
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Inflammation of the organs of the digestive tract
  • Gastrointestinal cancer
  • Endoscopic surveillance
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

What conditions are treated by Gastroenterologists?

Gastroenterologists are trained with special education to treat all conditions affecting the GI system. Some of the common conditions treated by gastroenterologists include:

  • Acid reflux
  • Stomach and other ulcers
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Hepatitis C
  • Polyps in the large intestine
  • Abnormal growth in the large intestine
  • Jaundice
  • Bloody stool
  • Haemorrhoids or commonly known as piles
  • Colon cancer
  • Esophagus cancer
  • Colon polyps
  • Pancreatitis or any other condition causing inflammation in the pancreas

What procedures are performed by Gastroenterologists?

Gastroenterologists perform a variety of non-surgical procedures such as:

  • Endoscopy of the upper and lower GI tract and other internal organs
  • Colonoscopy to diagnose colon cancer and polyps
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to detect gallstones tumours or scar tissue
  • Sigmoidoscopies to assess the blood loss or pain in bowel movement
  • Biopsy of the liver to detect inflammation and fibrosis
  • Capsule endoscopies to analyse the small intestine
  • Double balloon enteroscopy to study the small intestine

When should you visit a Gastroenterologist?

You would need to visit a Gastroenterologist if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Unexplained blood in the stool
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Excessive and unexplained abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Reflux of food after swallowing
  • Extreme diarrhoea

Moreover, people over the age of 50 irrespective of gender should visit a Gastroenterologist for regular monitoring and preventive care since they are at higher risk of colon cancer.

Who is a Gastrologist?

As per definition, a gastrologist is a person who specialises in gastrology. Gastrology involves stomach and stomach related issues. However, gastrology is not a recognized branch of study and hence, gastrologist is just another term used for gastroenterologist, since the latter is difficult to pronounce.Gastrology could be a term used in the early 1900s but has been replaced bygastroenterologist today and is not treated separately.

What is the difference between gastrologist and gastroenterologist?

Practically, there is no difference between the two specialists since one (gastrologist) is only a commonly adapted word of a gastroenterologist. Contrary to the definition of gastrology, all stomach ailments are also covered in gastroenterology; hence, patients with any kind of issues related to the GI tract including the stomach need to visit a gastroenterologist.

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