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Conditions & Treatments

Colon & Small Bowel Diseases

Conditions affecting your colon and lower gastrointestinal tract cause a variety of symptoms that disrupt your quality of life. They are often painful and can be embarrassing, at times impacting self-judgment on when we should reach out for treatment. Our digestive health team at Einstein offer discrete, compassionate, personalized care, including the most advanced testing and treatment for a full range of colon and small bowel conditions:

Abdominal pain can have a variety of causes, from gas and bloating or a stomach virus to more serious conditions such as appendicitis. For severe abdominal pain, you may need to visit the emergency room, especially if the pain is most intense on one side or radiating to the back or other areas. For mild pain or pain that is persistent or recurring, schedule an appointment with an Einstein gastroenterologist.

What does IBS do and how can you treat it?

Pain in your abdomen related to bowel movements may be a sign you have irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS. IBS refers to a range of chronic conditions, including Crohn’s and colitis, which cause changes in your bowel movements, including diarrhea and constipation and may be coupled with crampy abdominal pain that typically improves after moving your bowels. To treat IBS, you doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as eating more fiber, dietary restrictions, reducing stress and alcohol consumption and quitting smoking. Your doctor may also prescribe medications for you to take regularly, or on an as-needed basis.

Also known as dyspepsia, indigestion refers to bloating and discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen, which is sometimes accompanied by burping or nausea. It is usually caused by overeating, or consuming spicy or fatty foods, though it can also be a symptom of a hiatal hernia or other more serious conditions. It can often be addressed with lifestyle changes, and your doctor may also prescribe medications for you to take regularly, or on an as-needed basis.

Celiac disease is a genetic condition that causes people to be allergic to gluten. Eating this protein found most in wheat and similar grains triggers an immune response in the body that damages the small intestine and may cause a variety of symptoms, including diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion and weight loss. Your doctor may run blood tests to determine if you have celiac disease. If these tests are positive an endoscopy with biopsies of tissue from the small intestine will be needed to confirm the diagnosis. The most common treatment for celiac disease is to avoid products containing gluten, including most beer, and some skin and hair products.

SIBO is a condition in which bacteria that normally live in your large intestine end up in your small intestine, causing pain or discomfort, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and GERD. It is also associated with those who have undergone bowel surgeries and those with slow gut motility. To treat SIBO, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, and may also recommend probiotics and other lifestyle changes.

Microscopic colitis is an inflammation of your colon that may cause abdominal pain, cramps, bloating and watery diarrhea. Because the inflammation is too small to see with the naked eye, your doctor will need to take a tissue sample of your colon to determine if it is inflamed. To treat microscopic colitis, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, as well as over-the-counter or prescriptions medications.

Gastrointestinal bleeding can be a serious condition causing ulcers, sores, inflammation or tears in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. In some cases, you may notice blood in your stool or vomit, but in others the bleeding may be less obvious. Other symptoms include abdominal or chest pain, lightheadedness and difficulty breathing. Treatments may include medication, lifestyle changes and procedures such as endoscopy or colonoscopy.

Diverticulitis is a condition where small bulges or pouches that have formed in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, most commonly in the large intestine, become inflamed or infected. This can cause abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting and changes in your bowel habits. In mild cases, diverticulitis may be treated with lifestyle changes, antibiotics and over-the-counter medications. In severe cases where an abdominal abscess has formed, you may require surgery.

Diarrhea is a common symptom of many gastrointestinal disorders, and is characterized by loose or watery stool. While diarrhea can often be treated with over-the-counter medications, it may be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition. If it is black and tarry or contains blood, is frequently occurring or lasts for longer than a few days, schedule an appointment with an Einstein gastroenterologist.

Though occasional constipation is common, infrequent bowel movements or difficulty passing stool can be a symptom of a more serious condition if it is chronic or frequently occurring. If you have been experiencing constipation for longer than a week or two, or it is frequently recurring, schedule an appointment with an Einstein gastroenterologist.

The inability to control your bowels can have a variety of causes and is often associated with muscle or nerve damage related to aging or giving birth. At Einstein gastroenterology, our professional, compassionate team can diagnose the cause of your incontinence and offer a personalized treatment plan that may include lifestyle changes, medication, and in some cases, surgery.

Gas and bloating can have a variety of causes, and may cause pain or discomfort. When present in the lower gastrointestinal tract, it is usually a result of digestive processes, or fermentation of undigested food, though it may also by a sign of unwanted bacteria in your intestines or colon. Treatments may include lifestyle changes, and over-the-counter or prescription medications, depending on the cause. If your gas and bloating is persistent or frequently recurring, schedule an appointment with an Einstein gastroenterologist.

Rectal pain can have a variety of causes, including hemorrhoids, ulcers, inflammation, chronic constipation or diarrhea, Crohn’s and other conditions. Depending on the cause, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and medication.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your anus and lower rectum that can cause itching, pain and bleeding. In most cases, hemorrhoids can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications, though in severe cases may require minimally invasive surgery.

Anal fissures are small tears in the lining of the anus that cause pain and bleeding, especially during bowel movements. Depending on the cause and severity of your condition, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medication to relieve symptoms and promote healing, or in some cases, a minimally invasive surgical procedure.


Diagnostic Testing & Treatment

The digestive health team at Einstein offers a full range of the most advanced diagnostic testing and treatment for colon and small bowel diseases.

The most common procedures used in diagnosing colon and lower bowel conditions, your gastroenterologist will perform a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy depending on the area of your lower gastrointestinal tract that needs to be examined. Some type of laxative is usually required to clean out the bowel prior to the procedure. Both procedures involve a thin, flexible tube with a camera attached that is inserted into your rectum. Your doctor can also use this device to perform treatments, stop bleeding, remove scar tissue, place stents, take biopsies to check for cancer and remove precancerous polyps. Your colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy will be performed under sedation, and your gastroenterologist will provide further instruction regarding fasting and colon cleansing procedures prior to your scheduled appointment.

Preparing for a Colonoscopy

For conditions that require examining the small intestine and other portions of the gastrointestinal tract more easily reached through the esophagus, a single balloon enteroscopy (SBE) or push enteroscopy is used. These systems allow your gastroenterologist to see deeper into the small intestine than with a standard endoscope. The push endoscope is used to examine the upper small intestine, and the SBE is used to examine further into the small intestine. Both types of enteroscope can be used to perform treatments similar to an endoscopy or colonoscopy. This procedure is performed under sedation, and your gastroenterologist will provide further instruction regarding fasting and colon cleansing procedures prior to your scheduled appointment.

To examine areas of the small intestine that are otherwise difficult to reach, your gastroenterologist may perform a capsule endoscopy. Similar to a colonoscopy or endoscopy, your doctor will provide instructions for fasting and cleaning out your bowels prior to and during the procedure. You will swallow a pill with a wireless camera inside, which sends images to a recording device you wear on your belt through an antenna taped to your shirt or abdomen. You will not need to be sedated, and you can go about your day while the capsule makes its way through your digestive system. Your doctor will then review the images to diagnose your condition and develop a treatment plan.

If certain areas of your gastrointestinal tract have become narrowed or blocked due to scar tissue or other conditions, your gastroenterologist may place a stent using an enteroscope or colonoscope. These stents help prevent blockages and other symptoms or conditions that occur when digestion or bowel movements are impeded by a narrow gastrointestinal tract.

Some gastrointestinal disorders such as GERD are sometimes caused by small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), a condition in which bacteria that normally live in your large intestine end up in your small intestine. In this test, you ingest a manmade sugar that can only be digested by these bacteria and collecting breath samples over a three-hour window. A lab analysis of the samples will determine if you have SIBO and where the bacteria is located, helping your doctor develop a treatment plan.

This test measures the pressures of the anal sphincter muscles, the sensation in the rectum, and the neural reflexes that are needed for normal bowel movements, and is used to diagnose and develop treatment plans for constipation and fecal incontinence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Hemorrhoids occur when a cluster of veins in the lower part of the rectum or anus becomes swollen or distended. This can lead to rectal bleeding and discomfort. Effective hemorrhoid treatments are available.

Hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure on the lower rectum resulting from:

  • Straining during bowel movements
  • Pressure and hormonal changes due to pregnancy
  • Regular heavy lifting
  • Eating a low-fiber diet
  • Obesity

Changing your habits and focusing on self-care can be effective forms of hemorrhoid treatment.

Minor hemorrhoids usually disappear after a few days. If you experience pain or bleeding that does not go away, you may want to ask your doctor about other hemorrhoid treatment options.


Request an Appointment

If you are experiencing chronic or frequent abdominal pain or bloating, heartburn, indigestion, constipation, diarrhea or other symptoms associated with a digestive health condition, schedule an appointment with a board-certified gastroenterologist today.


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Training & Education

At Einstein, we have clinical expertise in all core domains of digestive health and are actively invested in resident education.

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