Digestive problems often go ignored – written off as a meal not agreeing with your stomach or as the stomach bug that’s been going around. However, digestive issues can be symptoms of a bigger health problem, so there are cases when you should talk to your doctor instead of ignoring your discomfort. Your doctor will then likely be able to treat you or refer you to a specialist for more specific care.
Which doctor should you see?
Depending on your symptoms, it may be confusing to decide whether you should see your primary care doctor or a specialist. A digestive specialist, also called a gastroenterologist, can be helpful if you are experiencing certain symptoms, but sometimes it is best to be referred to a gastroenterologist by your primary care doctor.
Below, we’ll discuss some of the circumstances in which seeing a gastroenterologist might be helpful.
If you begin experiencing new, unusual symptoms, it is a good idea to talk about these irregularities with your primary care physician, who already has some knowledge of your health history. He or she will be able to determine whether your new symptoms are the result of a previously diagnosed condition, or if something new might be going on.
Once your doctor does a physical exam and any tests he or she determines would be helpful, you may then be referred to a gastroenterologist. The specialist will be able to diagnose and treat conditions that are less common or more specific than a primary care physician typically deals with.
Continual care for a problem that has already been diagnosed
Some people who have been diagnosed with a digestive condition see a gastroenterologist routinely for care. In that case, the gastroenterologist will stay in close communication with your other doctors to provide updates and information that may connect digestive issues with other health problems.
People over the age of 50 are commonly referred to a gastroenterologist for routine screenings to check for colorectal cancer. This is done in a common procedure called a colonoscopy.
What Conditions a Gastroenterologist Treats
A gastroenterologist specializes in treating conditions in the digestive tract. Gastroenterologists most commonly treat:
- Gallbladder disease
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Celiac disease
Though it can be difficult to determine when symptoms warrant a visit to a specialist, a gastroenterologist may be your best option if you have concerns. Your primary care physician can be your first appointment, and then he or she will be able to help you decide whether seeing a gastroenterologist is the best option for you.