What is gastroenterology?
Gastroenterology is the study of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and liver. They give us a closer look on the physiology of the gastrointestinal organs, how the digestive system works, from the movement of material in through the stomach, digestion and absorption of nutrients to our bodies. Gastroenterology also gives us insights to how our digestive systems work in correlation with other organs, such as the liver.
They treat conditions like colon polyps and cancer, hepatitis, heartburn, peptic ulcer disease colitis, gallbladder problem or nutritional problems. To sum up, any error in functions or diseases in the digestive organs can be monitored or treated by a gastroenterologist.
Gastroenterologist as a profession
Gastroenterologists are internists who specialize in diagnosing and treating GI diseases. GI systems function when your body needs to digest and move food, absorb nutrients or remove waste from our body. Gastroenterologists treat organs within the GI systems such as:
- Mouth (although the GI systems starts from the mouth, it’s often treated my dentist and dental specialists)
- Large and small intestines
- Salivary glands
Some of the common diseases related to the digestive systems are:
- Gastrointestinal bleeding or cancer
- Anaemia- haemoglobin is below normal level, which leads to lack of oxygen
- Inflammatory bowel disease: Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
- Short bowel syndrome
- Jaundice: Low bilirubin level in blood and tissues, making the skin turn yellow
- Viral hepatitis
- Autoimmune liver disorders
- Diverticulitis- inflammation of the diverticula in the intestine
Though gastroenterologists don’t perform surgical procedures, there are a variety of treatments they could enforce:
- Administer endoscopic ultrasounds to examine the upper and lower GI tract
- Colonoscopies to diagnose the development of colon cancer or colon polyps
- Identify gallstones, tumors or scar tissues in the bile duct area
- Using sigmoidoscopies to evaluate blood loss or pain in the bowel
- Perform liver biopsies to determine the inflammation level and fibrosis
- Examine the small intestine by using capsule endoscopies or double balloon enteroscopy
Where they work
Gastroenterologists are often employed in a hospital or an outpatient clinic. They will work collectively at a department. Usually, unless there’s an emergency, a primary care or a family doctor might refer you to a gastroenterologist.
To become a gastroenterologist, you must first earn a bachelor at a medical school, then complete a 3-year Internal medicine residency, then follow up by a fellowship in Gastroenterology. Normally, the entire process would take about 5-6 years in total, medical school aside.
Though gastroenterology is quite intense, aspiring gastroenterologists get to learn directly from their seniors, earning hands-on experience. They get to learn how to evaluate patients and conditions, as well as provide consultations in order to help patients maintain health and prevent disease. With this thorough training, you’ll be able to adapt to any situations and help patients with any complaints.
Annually, on average, gastroenterologists earn about $419,000 according to a recent 2020 survey. Moreover, the growth for this professioni still very much on the rise, with 4% from 2019 to 2029 so you wouldn’t have to worry about finding a job. Beside becoming a gastroenterologist, you can also choose to branch out into many other professions, such as hepatology.
Though gastroenterology illnesses are found more often in older patients, it is not uncommon for young people to contract them. Preventive care, especially for people over 50 are crucial since they are more prone to colon cancer from this age on.