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Cirrhosis Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Cirrhosis Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Cirrhosis, also known as end-stage liver disease, refers to the impaired liver function that results from fibrosis, or liver scar tissue, due to the damage caused by liver disease.

There are many causes and forms of liver disease, some of which we will explore in this article, but each time your liver is injured by disease or another cause it will attempt to repair itself. This reparation process results in the formation of scar tissue which is not inherently bad.

What makes scar tissue on the liver harmful is when it reaches a level of presence that impedes the ability of the liver to perform its normal functions. What is even more concerning is that once the damage is done, it cannot simply be healed.

The damage is there to stay.

When this condition becomes advanced enough, it can be life-threatening.

However, if liver cirrhosis is caught and diagnosed early enough in its existence, then it is possible to limit further damage and reduce the connected possible health deficits.

Now that we’ve established that cirrhosis is quite serious, let’s present a clear guide to understanding the symptoms, an explanation of the causes of cirrhosis, and an exploration of the available treatments available for handling this liver problem.

cirrhosis_symptoms

Symptoms of Cirrhosis

Unfortunately, symptoms of cirrhosis can be quite difficult to notice for the person suffering from it. Only when the damage is quite extensive will the patient notice at which point it is normally too late for the liver to recover.

When the condition is serious enough to the point where it is not reversible, there is a multitude of symptoms that one may experience.

Just five of them may include easily bleeding or bruising, swelling in the legs due to oedema, yellow discolouration in the skin and eyes known as jaundice, absence of periods for women, and loss of sex drive for men.

There are a host of other symptoms but the few listed above paint a picture of the seriousness with which this condition should be treated.

In other words, all precautions should be taken to ensure that one does not develop cirrhosis as the damage will cause extensive bodily harm with no real treatment available to reverse the damage.

Causes of Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis can be caused by a number of conditions but there are several lifestyle or other factors that can increase the likelihood of developing liver disease and the associated liver scarring.

These are called risk factors and the first one on the list is drinking too much alcohol. This is a direct risk factor for cirrhosis with excessive alcohol consumption causing significant liver damage.

Another culprit is being overweight. While simply being overweight does not cause excessive liver scarring, it does increase one’s risk of developing conditions that have the potential to result in cirrhosis.

One such weight-related disease is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.

The last risk factor worth mentioning here is that of viral hepatitis. While not a sure-fire way to develop cirrhosis, viral hepatitis is one of the world’s leading causes of liver disease.

cirrhosis_liver

Treatment of Cirrhosis

Prevention is better than cure, always, so it’s worth looking at a couple of preventive measures that can be taken to lower one’s risk of developing cirrhosis.

Ultimately, it comes down to looking after your liver which can be done in several ways:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Advice just about as old as modern medicine itself, a healthy diet is essential for a healthy body and, by obvious association, a healthy liver. In general, a plant-based diet should be followed with a high percentage of fruits and vegetables. Whole grains and lean sources of meat should be selected over simple sugars and fatty foods.
  • Reduce your risk of hepatitis. As mentioned earlier, hepatitis is a leading cause of liver disease. As such, all precautions should be taken to prevent contracting hepatitis.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption. If one already has cirrhosis, then alcohol should be avoided at all costs. Reducing one’s alcohol consumption, even when one does not have cirrhosis, is a wise choice with many parts of the body guaranteed a better chance at increased health and maintained optimal functioning.

Were one to develop cirrhosis, there are several viable treatment options which we will discuss below.

Generally, treatment depends on the causes of cirrhosis and the extent to which it has damaged one’s liver already.

Treatments seek to slow scar tissue progression while lowering the occurrence of, or eliminating entirely, the associated symptoms.

Underlying Cirrhosis Cause Treatment

This treatment is effective in the earlier stages of cirrhosis when the tissue scarring has not become too severe.

If alcohol is the chief cause of cirrhosis, then one’s doctor would recommend drastically reducing alcohol intake.

If the patient is unable to do this then the doctor may recommend a treatment program for alcohol addiction.

One of the jobs the liver performs in cleansing the blood is detoxifying it of alcohol. If cirrhosis is already present, then alcohol is toxic to the liver as it is unable to be processed.

When cirrhosis is caused by non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, patients have the potential to become healthier by losing weight and asserting back control of their blood sugar levels.

Lastly, medications that control other causes of cirrhosis and treat the symptoms of cirrhosis may be given to slow its progression.

Cirrhosis Complications and Treatment

As oedema is a common symptom of cirrhosis, a low-sodium diet and medication to prevent fluid build-up in the body may help control the swelling. If the fluid retention is severe, however, then procedures may be required to drain the fluid.

Hepatic encephalopathy is where reduced brain function results from severe liver disease. In this case, one’s doctor may prescribe medication to assist in reducing toxin build-up in the blood due to the large decrease in liver function.

Infections are another common complication that may arise due to liver cirrhosis. Doctors will prescribe antibiotics in this case along with a recommendation for vaccinations for pneumonia, hepatitis, and influenza.

Liver Transplant Surgery

Cirrhosis is one of the most common reasons for a liver transplant. This procedure is required when the liver stops functioning due to the severity of the condition.

It’s performed by replacing one’s liver with a healthy liver from a deceased donor or with a part of the liver from a living person.

This is the last resort and potential recipients require extensive testing to ascertain whether they are healthy enough to have a high likelihood of a good outcome. One of the many requirements of alcohol-induced cirrhosis patients is a lifelong commitment to alcohol abstinence.

Summary

Cirrhosis is a severe form of liver disease where tissue scarring has greatly impacted the normal functioning of the liver.

While the damage cannot be reversed, there are a number of preventive measures which can be taken to reduce the likelihood of developing cirrhosis such as reducing alcohol consumption, following a healthy diet, and avoiding infections.

In severe cases, liver transplants are currently the only way to replace a liver that can no longer function.

It is best to diagnose cirrhosis as early as possible so that measures can be taken to reduce the damage and increase the longevity of the liver.

If you would like to book an appointment with a gastrointestinal (GI) specialist or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call Dr. Deetlefs at 021 551 8678.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Stomach Pains – When You Need to See a Gastroenterologist

Stomach Pains – When You Need to See a Gastroenterologist

Stomach pain can be a tricky condition to diagnose. First off, it’s quite the general term and isn’t really enough to go on and make a clear self-diagnosis without the completely plausible risk of being horribly off the mark.

Stomach pain also varies wildly in intensity due to the large degree of variation in cause and location.

Nuances in location and cause mean it is in your best interest to seek an actual medical professional when you’re dealing with stomach pain.

In short, if you’re wondering if you should see a doctor about your troubling stomach pain then you probably should.

That said, there are pointers that can make it easier for you to determine whether a trip to the doctor is necessary.

Understanding the types, sources of stomach pain, and common stomach pain signs can change your thinking from “I wonder if it’s worth seeing the doctor about this” to “Oh I recognize that sign, I should definitely see my doctor about this.”

So let’s first jump into the different types and sources of stomach pain and then explore some of the stomach pain signs to be on the lookout for in determining whether to see a Gastroeneterologist.

abdominal_pains_when_to_see_a_doctor

Types and Sources of Stomach Pain

Stomach pain can often be confused as pain that isn’t the stomach at all but rather the abdominal region.

The abdomen includes not only the digestive tract but also other vital organs such as the large intestine, stomach, appendix, kidneys, liver, and gallbladder.

Apart from these organs, your abdomen houses muscles, bones, blood vessels and other structures.

There is simply a lot going on in the abdomen and, as such, any problem with one of these structures may cause pain in the abdomen.

Due to the sheer complexity of what’s housed in the abdomen, there is a vast array of potential problems that may cause pain.

Some of the more common sources of pain include indigestion, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), kidney stones, appendicitis, irritable bowel syndrome and a whole host of others.

One of the most common causes of stomach, or abdominal, pain is related to bloating and gas where a generalized pain is felt most often due to indigestion.

The pain, as you are likely aware, is uncomfortable but normally resides after some time.

Taking an over-the-counter medication such as an antacid can lower the recovery time significantly but often normal digestion will resume with time and the pain will subside.

This general pain is different from abdominal pain that is more localized to a certain region. This may indicate a sign of a problem with one of your organs.

Before you panic whenever you feel localized pain, know that this pain may be transient in nature thereby passing with time.

However, a sharp, persistent, or worsening localized pain may indicate a good time to see your doctor.

Stomach Pain Signs for When to

See a Gastroenterologist

General pain is, well… pretty general. As such, it can be difficult to discern between pain that may subside in a short while and acute pain that requires more serious attention.

To help one make sense of and differentiate between something that will shortly subside and that which may be a sign of something more troubling, let’s take a look at several stomach pain signs that justify a visit to the doctor.

1.   Intense Pain Accompanied by Bloody Diarrhoea

If this appears quite suddenly, it can serve as a sign of something like a foodborne illness thanks to food contamination of some sort.

Salmonella and E. Coli are both causes of foodborne illnesses. Food poisoning is often accompanied by other symptoms such as running a fever.

While food poisoning does generally subside in a few days, it is worth a visit to the doctor even if just to ensure that food poisoning is indeed the cause and whether additional precautionary measures need to be taken.

Regular severe pain coupled with bloody diarrhoea, on the other hand, could suggest something more serious such as a form of inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis.

The tricky aspect of something like inflammatory bowel disease is that it may have periods of remission where the pain and general symptoms disappear. This can provide a false sense of recovery to patients.

Ultimately, intense pain accompanied by bloody diarrhoea warrants a visit to the doctor every time.

2. Sudden Pain Paired with Vomiting

As in the previous sign, this could be an indication of a foodborne illness. And, as mentioned earlier, this may pass after several days.

These symptoms can, however, be the cause of acute gastroenteritis (‘stomach flu’). Gatroenteritis is caused by a bacteria, virus or parasite and manifests as inflammation of the intestine lining.

Viral gastoenteritis is very common today and generally subsides on it’s own. As such, it’s not essential to see a Gastroenterologist but if you are struggling to keep fluids down then a visit to the doctor is needed.

3. Intense Stomach Pain in Lower Abdomen

If one experiences a high level of pain in the lower abdomen that is relieved once the bowels are moved, it could be a sign of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

IBS involves a change in the normal functioning of the digestive system and is related to how the brain and the gut work together.

Those with IBS tend to have more sensitive guts resulting in changes in muscular contraction in the bowels. Symptoms include bloating, constipation, and persistent stomac pain, among others.

Due to the fact that stomach cramps that subside after the moving of one’s bowels can be a sign of constipation, the lines between IBS and ordinary constipation can become a little blurred.

If constipation is something you find reoccurring on a regular basis then a visit to the doctor may do you some good in helping to clear up the causes and looking at possible solutions.

4. Side or Lower Back Pain

Kidney stones may be the problem if you experience side or lower back pain coupled with pain during urination.

Kidney stones are tiny pebble-like crystals that can form in one or both of the kidneys due to high levels of certain minerals.

The pain caused by kidney stones is due to their sharp crystalline structure passing through the urinary tract as tries to leave your body.

The pain can be quite incredible and is often accompanied by nausea and even vomiting.

Summary

Stomach pain and that in the surrounding abdominal region can be quite mild.

In the majority of cases, pain in this area is related to indigestion and bloating and does not always require a trip to the doctor.

If pain persists for a longer period of time or worsens, then it is time to seek professional medical help.

Localized pain, that is pain felt in a specific region of the abdomen, may indicate a more severe problem and certainly warrants paying the doctor a visit.

In any case, if you are unsure whether you should or shouldn’t see a doctor, then the answer is always that you should.

Don’t rely on internet blogs and articles to self-diagnose as this can be dangerous for your health and should not be taken as medical advice.

Always trust the professionals as they are trained to diagnose and help you recover.

Learn More from the Experts

GiDoc Cape Town is a practice founded to provide medical solutions in the area of gastroenterology.

Over the years, Dr Eduan Deetlefs has earned the reputation of a trusted health expert providing consultative, diagnostic, and therapeutic endoscopic and related services to patients in Cape Town and beyond. 

Book an appointment online or give us a call at 021 551 8678 to find out more.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Gut

The Importance of Maintaining a Healthy Gut

Our guts are unbelievably complex. As more light is shed on this complexity by an ever-expanding body of scientific research, we are finding compelling evidence of links between the gut and a multitude of other bodily functions and features.

Numerous studies have found such links between gut health and mental health, skin conditions, the immune system, your general mood, and even cancer.

Once thought to be relatively simple in function, our guts are proving to be important catalysts for overall body health and normal functioning.

This incredibly intricate network of interaction is due to what is referred to as the gut microbiome.

Basically, your gut microbiome refers to the hundreds of different species of bacteria and yeast that live in your digestive tract. Many of these are wonderfully beneficial to our human bodies and some are, in fact, necessary for a healthy, functioning physiological system.

By looking after the health of your gut, you’re taking care of the good bacteria that reside there and impart beneficial effects on the rest of your body.

Here we are going to take a look at some of the ways in which you can detect if your gut health is struggling.

We will then talk about some of the benefits of maintaining good gut health and, finally, we’ll suggest some ways in which you can increase your chances of having the healthiest gut possible.

signs_of_an_unhealhty_gut

Signs of an Unhealthy Gut

Modern life is, as expected, not great for our gut health.

Many key features of today’s society result in many, if not most, people living with high-stress levels, operating on too little sleep, taking antibiotics, and eating highly processed foods.

None of this bodes well for the gut health of modern humans as poor gut health has a knock-on effect on many other aspects of your general health with your brain, heart, immune system, hormone levels, and mental health all susceptible to an increased likelihood of problems occurring.

Poor gut health can manifest itself in several ways.

Here are some common signs that may give you an indication that your gut is in need of some TLC.

1. Food Intolerances

Different from food allergies, food intolerance is the result of the difficulty in digesting a certain food (as opposed to the immune system reaction in food allergies).

Research indicates that this is due to the poor quality of gut bacteria. Ways in which this can manifest physically is through bloating, gas, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea.

2. Upset Stomach

General stomach disturbances such as those mentioned in the previous point, all point to something gone awry in your gut health. Constipation and heartburn are some extra signs indicating that your gut is having difficulty processing food and getting rid of the necessary waste.

3. Unintentional Weight Changes

The important word to take note of here is “unintentional”. If you are losing or gaining weight without changes in your diet or exercise routine, you may have a sign of an unhealthy gut on your hands.

When your gut health is suffering, your body will have a reduced ability to effectively absorb all the key nutrients from foods, regulate your blood sugar, and store fat.

Weight loss may be caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), while weight gain can be caused by insulin resistance or a nagging urge to overeat due to insufficient nutrient absorption.

4. Irregular Sleep Patterns and Nagging Fatigue

Insomnia and low sleep-quality may be the result of an unhealthy gut. Serotonin, largely produced in your gut, plays a large role in your mood regulation and sleep.

Therefore, an unhealthy gut may result in poorly regulated serotonin production thereby affecting your sleep quality.

How to Maintain a Healthy Gut

Now that we have taken a closer look at some of the real negative aspects of having poor gut health, let us look at how to improve and maintain good gut health.

Some of these may sound easy while others may challenge your willpower somewhat.
Start with at least a few and slowly work your way up if implementing all of them at once is a little overwhelming.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy balanced diet  results in lower gut inflammation and xhelps the gut microbiome thrive.

2. Avoid Smoking

While this may be a no-brainer to some, it is worth listing here.

Smoking is bad for you in every way, including your gut health.

Smoking negatively affects one’s gut microbiome by increasing the number of potentially harmful microorganisms while decreasing the levels of beneficial bacteria.

Consequently, those who smoke have an increased risk of developing intestinal conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

3. Take Probiotics and Eat Fermented Food

Some research suggests that regularly taking a probiotic, found in health food stores and pharmacies, can support a healthy gut microbiome and that it may even serve as a preventive measure for developing gut inflammation and other intestinal problems.

For those who want to ingest one less, not one more, pill a day – look towards foods that are a natural source of probiotics. Consuming fermented vegetables, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso regularly may improve gut health significantly.

4. Eat More Prebiotic Fibre

Non-digestible carbohydrates are referred to as prebiotics and they are essential for the generation of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

How?

Well, probiotics feed on this prebiotic fibre which, in turn, help grow and maintain a healthy gut microbiome.

Research has also shown that prebiotics may help probiotics become more tolerant to certain environmental conditions such as changes in PH and temperature.

5. Reduce Stress

One of the chief villains contributing to an unhealthy gut, stress, or the lack thereof rather, is very important for keeping your gut microflora healthy and happy.

Psychological stressors have been shown to have disruptive effects on the proliferation of healthy gut bacteria, even if the stress is temporary.

The solution is to find ways to manage your stress so that your gut microbiome is less susceptible to sudden changes due to temporary stress.

Chronic stress is even worse highlighting the case for its mitigation.

Some key stressors that affect your gut health include sleep deprivation, environmental stressors such as extreme noise pollution and intense temperature changes, and general psychological stress.

A few useful habits or activities worth looking into for the sake of reducing stress include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and focused muscle relaxation.

For the sake of completeness, it’s important to remember that simply sticking to a sleep schedule and exercising regularly can do wonders for lowering your stress levels.

6. Take Antibiotics Only When Absolutely Necessary

The overuse of antibiotics is a significant public health concern that may eventually lead to antibiotic resistance.

Apart from that, however, antibiotics are, by very nature, damaging to gut bacteria with research showing that the gut can lack the beneficial bacteria even up to six months after antibiotic use.

Always consult with your doctor about the necessity of taking an antibiotic so that alternative options may be discussed if they are available and effective.

healthy-gut-microbiome1

Summary

Our gut microbiome is incredibly complex with interactions among trillions of bacteria, yeast, and viruses affecting us in a multitude of different ways from our mental health, immune system response, and even our propensity for developing cancer.

While modern life makes it terribly easy to pepper our gut with unhealthy effects, there are beneficial means at our disposal.

By combining a conscious diet choice with good sleep, regular exercise, and stress-reducing habits, we are able to cultivate an environment for our gut that results in healthy gut bacteria thriving and harmful bacteria dying.

To learn more about the complexity of your gut and the opportunity for you to contribute to the scientific pursuit of gastrointestinal knowledge, visit our Cape Town office or peruse our website.

We are gastroenterologist experts using patient-focused GI treatment and procedures in Cape Town.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

What is a Polypectomy?

What is a Polypectomy?

A polypectomy is a procedure performed by doctors on patients who have polyps on the inside of their colon, or large intestine.

The polyps are surgically removed in a procedure that is generally considered relatively non-invasive

If you’re a little confused at this point, do not fear.

We’re going to have a look at exactly what polyps are, why they may need to be removed, recovering from a polypectomy and other information that will leave you clued up.

Let’s have a look at what you need to know about a polypectomy.

 

What are Polyps?

 

First off, let’s dive into what polyps are. They are, after all, the focus of a polypectomy.

In short, a polyp is an abnormal collection of tissue which grows out of tissue and into hollow spaces in the body.

Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time, usually a space of several years, but not all polyps become cancerous. The probability of this depends on the type of polyp.

At times, polyps found through a colonoscopy are likely precancerous. At this stage, they are called adenomas and, once removed, present no further risk to the patient.

Most are benign, however, it is not possible to rule out cancer without first examining the polyp.

It is for this reason that doctors recommend removing polyps when found so that they can be tested for cancer. 

How Common are Polyps?

 

Polyps are more common than you may think.

Using the United States as an example, between 20-30 percent of Americans have colon polyps.

Uterine polyps are also a problem which increase in probability of occurrence as a woman ages. Resultantly, they are highly prevalent in menopausal women.

Due to their prevalence in urbanized society, it’s imperative to have a screening colonoscopy done at least every 10 years beginning at the age of 50.

The benefits are two-fold: prevent cancer by removing the polyps while they are in the precancerous stage, and assess whether a patient is at risk of developing colon cancer through a lab test of a removed polyp.

If you are thinking that extra tissue such as a polyp may not be a problem if it is benign, think again.

A polyp can grow to a large size.

Such is their growth potential that it can alter blood flow, put pressure on organs, and cause a range of connected side-effects resulting in a multitude of symptoms.

 

dr-deetlefs-gastroenterology-treatment-capetown

 

What to Expect in a Polypectomy Procedure

 

Before doctors can remove a polyp or polyps, they must first ascertain whether there is any present. For this, a procedure called a colonoscopy is used.

During a colonoscopy, a colonoscope is inserted into the patient. A colonoscope is a long, thin and flexible tube which is equipped with a camera and a light at the end.

This allows the doctor to explore the segments of your colon in an attempt to find anything unusual, such as a polyp.

During a colonoscopy, if the doctor discovers polyps, they will usually perform a polypectomy at the same time.

Several methods of undertaking a polypectomy are available to the doctor and this depends in large part on the type of polyps they find.

Polyps can be small, large, sessile, or pedunculated. Sessile polyps don’t have a stalk and lie flat against the colon tissue whereas a pedunculated polyp grows on a stalk and can be thought of as a mushroom in terms of its shape.

Three common polypectomy procedures are as follows:

  • Cold Forceps Polypectomy:
    Forceps are used to pry and pull the polyp loose. The doctor will also use a wire to remove the part of the polyp that extends into the tissue. This technique is most commonly used with small polyps.
  • Hot Forceps Polypectomy:
    This technique is similar to cold forceps removal in that forceps are used to pry and pull the polyp loose. In addition, though, the doctor uses a procedure called electrocautery to burn away any remaining polyp tissue and prevent bleeding.
  • Snare Polypectomy:
    This is the most popular technique used when the polyp is larger than 1cm. A snare is a loop that can grab and remove the polyp. It can be either hot or cold and can be used in conjunction with electrocautery to burn away any remaining polyp tissue.

In moderately rare cases, some polyps can be considered technically challenging or can be associated with an increased risk of complications.

The location and configuration of the polyp, as well as a large polyp size, can result in this scenario.

In these cases, endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) or endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD) techniques can be used.

In EMR, a fluid injection made of saline is used to lift the polyp from the underlying tissue and then removed piece by piece.

In ESD, the fluid is injected deep into the lesion and the polyp is removed in one piece.

If this technique is also not possible, such as can be the case with larger polyps, bowel surgery may be needed. This is the last resort, however.

 

Is Anaesthetic Needed Before a Polypectomy?

Generally, the doctor will give the patient a sedative which is usually administered through an intravenous needle. This helps the patient to feel calm and relaxed.

Anaesthetic is not needed although some patients prefer it.

The procedure itself, while not painful, can be uncomfortable which is why a sedative can help the patient have a more relaxed experience.

In total, the procedure lasts between 30 and 60 minutes and is referred to as an outpatient procedure. This means patients can return home on the same day as the procedure.

In the cases where surgery is required, patients will remain in the hospital for around three days depending on whether complications arise.

 

Recovery from a Polypectomy

 

General recovery normally takes a patient around two weeks at a maximum.

In terms of discomfort, patients may feel some pain following the procedure, especially immediately after. The doctor will prescribe medication to manage this pain.

It’s quite normal to experience some bleeding following the procedure but one’s doctor should be kept updated in case there is a complication such as heavy bleeding that stops and starts again.

Your doctor will make sure you are clear on what to do following your procedure with post-care instructions.

They may ask you to avoid certain dietary intake that may irritate your digestive system.

The recommended dietary restriction is normally around 2-3 days.

Some of the foods and liquids the doctor may ask a patient to avoid include coffee, fizzy drinks, alcohol and spicy food.

Apart from the above, your doctor will schedule a follow-up colonoscopy to ensure that the polypectomy was a successful procedure.

 What is a Polypectomy

 

Summary 

A polypectomy is a routine procedure that can eliminate polyps and prevent the onset of colon cancer as a result of cancerous polyps.

Patients should weigh up the benefits and risks but overall this is a procedure that is relatively non-invasive with a large degree of utility.

For most polypectomy recipients, the procedure is a minor inconvenience that can offer peace of mind with regards to general health.

This becomes especially important when patients are 50 years and older.

If you would like to book an appointment with Dr. Deetlefs  or would simply like more information on a particular GI topic, don’t hesitate to use our online booking form or call us at 021 551 8678.

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

GIDoc Cape Town

Patient-focused GI treatments and procedures in Cape Town.

Monday-Friday 8AM-4PM.

Connect with Us

© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Constipation Causes and Treatment in Cape Town

Constipation Causes and Treatment in Cape Town

Have you ever gone for days without feeling a need to go to the toilet?

While some would think that’s normal, most of the time it’s not.

Although there is no generally accepted number of times a person should have bowel movements, there will be times when you’ll notice that you’re visiting the toilet less often than usual.

When you do go to the toilet, it takes all of your strength to pass hard, dry stools.

These are signs of constipation or the condition of having infrequent bowel movements or difficulty in passing stools.

Let’s talk about constipation, what it is, what causes it, and how it can be treated, as well as when you should take it seriously.

 

constipated_bowel_vs_normal_bowel

How the Bowel Works

To understand why constipation happens, let us first see the normal process of passing stools from the digestive system.

Food travels to the digestive system and is pushed through the intestines which usually takes between 24 to 72 hours.

From the small intestines, where most of the absorption of nutrients takes place, stool consisting of ingested food, bile, and digestive juices is pushed to the large intestines (colon).

The large intestine (colon) is split into four (4) sections: (1) ascending, (2) transverse, (3) descending, and, (4) sigmoid colon. which connects to the rectum and anus.

Food stays within a section for a while, just enough for the digestive tract to absorb fluids and nutrients or process and expel waste.

One of the large intestine’s functions is to absorb most of the fluid that the stool contains to transform it from liquid to solid. The longer this process takes, the more reabsorption occurs, resulting in an increasingly solid stool.

A final bout of reabsorption occurs once the stool reaches the sigmoid colon, before entering the rectum.

The rectal walls will then be distended, signaling the internal anal sphincter to relax. This is the point where the body decides whether to physically expel or hold the stool.

Expelling or retaining the stool in the rectum is controlled by the pelvic floor muscles particularly the puborectalis and external anal sphincter.

The puborectalis forms a single-like formation around the rectum, called the anorectal angle. When you voluntarily relax your external anal sphincter, the stool is finally expelled.

The whole process is coordinated to the brain and is communicated through the sensory nerve pathways that communicate signals such as pain or fullness.

These nerves can also tell the brain if the rectum is filled with gas or stool, which is why you can consciously decide whether to hold or expel it.

 

Why Constipation Occurs

When you are constipated, a desire to visit the toilet is not enough to signal your body into action, making the whole process of expelling waste more tedious.

This problem usually arises due to two reasons:

  1. The stool’s excessively slow movement through the colon, causing over-absorption of liquid that makes the stool too dry and too hard.
  2. Tightening of the pelvic floor muscles due to pelvic floor dysfunction, aging, or childbirth.

Both problems make the anorectal angle more acute, making it too difficult to expel waste.

 large_intestine_constipation_causes

 

What is Chronic Constipation?

Going a day without a bowel movement is not necessarily a cause for alarm.

Generally, constipation becomes chronic when you defecate less than three times per week for several months.

Chronic constipation interferes with people’s ability to go about their daily tasks and can cause excessive straining and extreme discomfort during bowel movements.

Signs and symptoms of chronic constipation include:

  1. Bowel movement that occurs less than three (3) times per week
  2. Consistent passing of lumpy hard stools
  3. Continuous straining to have bowel movements
  4. Feeling of blockage in the rectum
  5. Feeling as though you cannot empty the rectum
  6. Needing help to empty the rectum by pressing the abdomen or using the finger to remove stool from the rectum.

If you have experienced two or more of these symptoms for the last two or three months, constipation may be considered chronic. It’s best to book an appointment with your Gastroenterologist right away.

 causes-of-constipation

Causes of Constipation

Chronic constipation has many possible causes:

1. Blockages in the colon or rectum

A blockage in the colon or rectum can slow down or completely stop stool movement.

Blockages may be caused either by anal fissures or tiny tears in the skin around the anus, bowel obstruction in the intestines, colon or rectal cancer and other abdominal cancers that presses on the colon, bowel stricture or narrowing of the colon, rectocele or a rectum bulge through the back wall of the vagina.

 

2. Damaged nerves around the colon and rectum

Since nerves have a vital role in the transmission of stool, it’s natural for neurological problems to cause issues with bowel movements.

Autonomic neuropathy or damaged nerves, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, and stroke are some of the conditions that bring about chronic constipation.

3. Pelvic muscle problems

Weakened pelvic muscles that are unable to relax or contract correctly can cause chronic constipation.

4. Underlying conditions affecting hormones

Underlying conditions affecting hormones such as diabetes, overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism), and pregnancy may cause a prolonged bowel movement.

Aging, pregnancy, dehydration, low-fiber diet, sedentary lifestyle, medications (e.g., sedatives, pain relievers, anti-depressants, blood pressure control), and some mental health conditions (e.g., eating disorder, depression) can increase one’s risk of developing chronic constipation.

 

 

Complications of Chronic Constipation

If chronic constipation remains untreated, the patient may develop the following complications:

1. Hemorrhoids – These are swollen veins in the anus that are caused by continuous straining to have a bowel movement. Hemorrhoid pain can be sudden and severe. The patient might feel or see a lump around the anus.

2. Anal fissure – This is a torn skin in your anus that is caused by a large or hard stool.

3. Fecal impaction – This is the accumulation of hardened stool that gets stuck in the intestines and cannot be expelled.

This is a very serious condition and needs medical attention right away. Fecal impaction won’t go away on its own. You need to have it removed for you to get better.

4. Rectal prolapse – This occurs when the intestine starts protruding from the anus due to continuous straining. Surgery is needed to repair the prolapse.

 

Diagnosis and Treatment for Constipation

in Cape Town

Treating constipation starts with diagnosing and trying to find the cause. Several tests can be made including the following:

  • Blood tests – Your doctor will watch for systemic conditions such as hypothyroidism or high calcium levels.
  • X-ray – This will show if your intestines are blocked and if there is stool present throughout the colon.
  • Sigmoidoscopy – Examination of the rectum and lower, or sigmoid, colon
  • Colonoscopy – Examination of the rectum and entire colon
  • Colonic transit study – You may be asked to swallow a capsule with a wireless recording device or radiopaque marker. The progress of the capsule through your colon will be recorded for 24 to 48 hours and will be shown on X-rays.

Constipation Causes and Treatment in Cape Town

 

Once the underlying cause is determined, your Gastroenterologist will recommend an appropriate treatment plan. Treatment may include:

1. Lifestyle changes: The doctor may recommend simple lifestyle changes such as stress management, daily exercise, and quitting smoking.

2. Laxatives: These are drugs that trigger muscle contractions in the small intestines to help advance bowel movement.

3. Fiber supplements: If the patient is found lacking in fiber, fiber supplements may be helpful to aid in digestion and defecation.

4. Biofeedback: Assessment and measurement of muscle tension in the rectum to teach physical techniques that improve pelvic muscle performance so the patient can pass stool more easily.

5. Pain management: This focuses on relieving the pain associated with chronic constipation.

6. Surgery: Some cases may need surgery, especially if there are structural issues in the small intestines such as rectocele.

If you’re experiencing signs of chronic constipation, seek medical advice right away to avoid complications.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Deetlefs in Cape Town, South Africa to get prompt medical assistance for chronic constipation and other issues with your digestive health.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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© Dr. Eduan Deetlefs, Registered Gastroenterologist, GI Doc Cape Town

Our website information is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained physician can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.