To find a physician or for questions   903-541-5000

Digestive Diseases

Gastroenterology is the study of your digestive system, which includes the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, liver, intestine, colon and rectum. In some cases, such as colonoscopy, it involves standard health screenings. We treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Achalasia, dysphasia and other swallowing disorders
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Crohn’s disease and colitis
  • Colon cancer
  • Colon polyps
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Gallbladder and biliary tract disease
  • Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
  • Hepatitis and liver diseases
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Ulcerative colitis

What is Barrett’s esophagus?

Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that causes the lining of your esophagus to change, becoming more like the tissue that lines your small intestine. Doctors call this intestinal metaplasia, and it most often occurs in the lower portion of your esophagus near your stomach.

It is believed that chronic inflammation in this area of your esophagus causes the tissue to change. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common precursor to Barrett’s esophagus.

GERD is a chronic condition in which the acidic contents of your stomach reflux up into your esophagus, damaging the delicate tissue.

Barrett’s esophagus may increase your risk of developing esophageal cancer.

What are Barrett’s esophagus symptoms?

You may not experience any specific symptoms with Barrett’s esophagus. However, many people with Barrett’s esophagus have GERD related symptoms, such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Sour taste in the back of the mouth
  • Food regurgitation
  • Laryngitis
  • Difficulty swallowing

If you have these symptoms or have GERD, you should be evaluated for Barrett’s esophagus. The American College of Gastroenterology recommends anyone with uncontrolled GERD should be screened for Barrett’s esophagus.

How is Barrett’s esophagus diagnosed?

Gastroenterologists perform endoscopies to diagnose Barrett’s esophagus.

An endoscopy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses an endoscope (thin flexible tube with a light and camera) to evaluate the lining of your esophagus. During the procedure, your gastroenterologist can see if there are changes to the structure of your esophageal tissue.

To confirm Barrett’s esophagus, the physician will take a biopsy of the abnormal tissue. In addition to confirming a diagnosis, the patients esophageal tissue biopsy also looks for precancerous and cancerous cells.

How is Barrett’s esophagus treated?

Our gastroenterologist team will create an individualized treatment plan for the management of Barrett’s esophagus based on the severity of esophageal tissue change, the patient’s symptoms and overall health.

If the patient does not have any precancerous or cancerous cells, they recommend ongoing endoscopy screening to monitor their esophageal tissue and treatments to manage GERD.

If the patient has precancerous or cancerous tissue, their physician will use HALO ablation technology to treat Barrett’s esophagus. During this endoscopic procedure, radiofrequency energy is used to remove the damaged tissue.

GERD is a common gastrointestinal condition and a risk factor for Barrett’s esophagus. To schedule your Barrett’s esophagus consultation, call 903-531-8950.

What is cirrhosis?

Cirrhosis means your liver is permanently damaged and scarred. This damage affects normal liver function, which impairs overall health and wellness.

Your liver is the largest organ in your body and part of the digestive system. It cleans your body of toxins, produces substances that assist with digestion and serves as a storage area for energy.

When injured, your liver has the ability to regenerate and repair the damage. However, when subjected to repeated injuries from conditions such as hepatitis or alcohol abuse, your liver may develop scar tissue that affects normal function, leading to cirrhosis.

Though cirrhosis is irreversible, early diagnosis and treatment may prevent further damage that leads to liver failure.

What are cirrhosis symptoms?

You may not experience any symptoms from cirrhosis until you have severe liver damage. Common symptoms of cirrhosis include:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling in your legs or abdominal area
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Itchy skin
  • Development of spider veins
  • Confusion
  • Weight loss

If you are experiencing these symptoms, schedule a consultation at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center.

What can I expect during a cirrhosis evaluation?

During your visit to UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center for a cirrhosis evaluation, you can expect a patient-focused comprehensive exam.

Our gastroenterologists take a holistic approach to patient health, which means they focus on your whole-body health, not just your liver.

During the evaluation, your gastroenterologist asks detailed questions about your symptoms, medical history, types of medications you take and your lifestyle habits.

They perform a physical exam and may request lab tests to assess liver function, as well as various diagnostic tests such as ultrasound of the abdomen.

You also may need a liver biopsy to assess the severity of liver damage.

How is cirrhosis treated?

Your doctor develops an individualized treatment plan for the management of cirrhosis based on the severity of liver damage, your symptoms and your overall health.

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Disease-specific medication.
  • Nutrition therapy.
  • Treatment for alcohol cessation.
  • Medication to alleviate symptoms. For example, a diuretic to reduce swelling.

If your cirrhosis is severe and you are at risk of liver failure, your gastroenterologist may recommends a liver transplant.

For more information, call 903-531-8950.

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer is a type of cancer that develops in your colon. It is the final section of your digestive system and includes your large intestine and rectum. Colon cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States.

It usually starts as a small benign growth called a polyp. When left untreated, the polyp turns cancerous.

The goal of colon cancer screening is to find and remove benign polyps to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer.

When do I need a colon cancer screening?

Your primary care provider or gastroenterologist at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center can tell you when you need a colon cancer screening. In general, adults should start screening between the ages of 45 and 50.

However, you may benefit from a colon cancer screening at an earlier age if you’re at greater risk of developing colon cancer. Risk factors include:

  • Family history of colon cancer.
  • Crohn’s disease.
  • Ulcerative colitis.
  • History of polyps.
  • An inherited gene mutation that increases your risk of colon cancer.

If you have concerns about colon cancer and want to know more about colon cancer screening, the gastroenterologists at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center are here to answer your questions. Call 903-531-8950.

What are the types of colon cancer screening?

There are many colon cancer screening tools. Though some screening tools provide more information than others.

The types of colon cancer screening options include:

  • Digital rectal exam
  • Stool blood test (annual test)
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (repeated every five years)
  • Colonoscopy (repeated every 10 years)

Though you have many colon cancer screening options, a colonoscopy is considered the gold standard screening test.

During the colonoscopy, a board-certified gastroenterologist will evaluate the entire length of the patient’s colon, as well as remove and test any polyps found during the procedure.

Though a colonoscopy requires more preparation and is more invasive than the other screening tools, if your other tests come back positive, you may still need a colonoscopy.

Colon cancer screening saves lives. To schedule your screening, call 903-531-8950 or schedule online.

Why do I need a colonoscopy?

There are three reasons you need a colonoscopy to protect your health:

Reason One - A colonoscopy screens for cancer by finding polyps.

A colonoscopy is the only way to screen for colon cancer by finding polyps that might be growing inside your colon.

Why is it so important to find polyps? Because that is where colon cancer begins. Colon polyps originally start as noncancerous growths. Over the years, they can turn into cancer.

Reason two - A colonoscopy prevents colon cancer.

During your colonoscopy, your physician will immediately remove any polyp that is discovered in your colon. Eliminating polyps prevents cancer from ever developing.

Reason three - A colonoscopy can cure colon cancer.

Removing a polyp that has turned cancerous effectively treats the disease. As long as the cancer is contained in the polyp and has not spread, your colonoscopy cures the disease.

How does Cologuard work?

Cologuard tests your stool for DNA markers and the presence of blood. Information from the DNA markers may signal the presence of precancerous and cancerous cells somewhere in your colon. Blood testing is not quite as informative because other colon conditions can bleed.

Cologuard is not intended for everyone. The company emphasizes that you should have a colonoscopy, if you are at high risk for colon cancer.

You should also know that Cologuard test results can be wrong. A negative result doesn’t always confirm you are free of cancer. At the same time, a positive test also doesn’t mean you have cancer for sure.

If you have a positive Cologuard test, you will need to get a colonoscopy to determine if you actually have cancer and to treat the problem.

Did you know that most insurance companies will only pay for one colon cancer screening test? If you go with Cologuard first, they will not cover the follow up colonoscopy that’s essential for determining if you have colon cancer.

What are the disadvantages of Cologuard compared to a colonoscopy?

It is true that Cologuard is noninvasive and is completed at home. However, that convenience may not be offset by the tests disadvantages:

  • Cologuard only detects cancer after it develops.
  • Cologuard misses 8% of colon cancers.
  • Cologuard misses 60% of advanced polyps.
  • Cologuard has a 13% false-positive rate.
  • Cologuard must be repeated every three years.

By comparison, most patients only need to repeat a colonoscopy every 10 years and it is the only colon cancer screening test that is acceptable for patients who have symptoms.

A colonoscopy is the gold standard for detecting cancerous and precancerous tumors. Simply put, colonoscopies are the only way to prevent colon cancer.

If you have any questions about colon cancer screening, you would like to learn more about your risk for colon cancer, or you are ready to schedule a colonoscopy, call 903-531-8950 or schedule online.

Colonoscopy preparation

Before undergoing a colonoscopy, patients will need to cleanse and thoroughly empty their bowel. Residual stool in the colon can mask polyps, the early signs of cancer, and patients may be required to repeat the procedure. To thoroughly flush the intestines, patients typically drink a laxative solution. Diligently following your doctor’s instructions is critical for the exam to be effective.

The test is usually done in an outpatient setting. A sedative will be given through intravenous (IV) therapy that will induce the patient to sleep throughout the procedure. The patient will not experience any discomfort.

What Happens During a Colonoscopy?

Our full-service outpatient surgery center offers ready access to colorectal and endoscopic procedures, including colonoscopy.

During a colonoscopy, your gastroenterologist will insert a colonoscope into your rectum and up through the large intestine. The flexible, lighted device will allow your physician to view the full lining of the colon and to identify and remove any polyps. If needed, tissue samples can be obtained for analysis and biopsy.

A colonoscopy can often facilitate the effective treatment of colorectal issues and allow the patient to avoid major surgery.

During the procedure you will be:

  • Asked to wear a hospital gown.
  • Given sedation and pain relief medicine intravenously.
  • Lying on your left side with your knees bent up toward the chest.

A colonoscopy takes 20 to 30 minutes. However, additional time may be required for some patients to carefully remove or sample polyps or lesions found during the examination.

Recovering after a colonoscopy

After the procedure, the patient will be monitored carefully until they awaken and are comfortable. Once the patient is cleared by the physician, they will be discharged to go home with a responsible adult.

For your safety, you will be asked to find someone you trust to drive you home after the procedure. Under no circumstances will you be allowed to leave the facility alone in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle.

There is a minimal risk of complication in most patients from the procedure. Examples of complications known to be rarely associated include:

  • Bleeding
  • Cramping or gas pain
  • Damage to the intestinal wall or nearby structures
  • Infections
  • Adverse reactions to the sedative or the laxative preparation

Under normal circumstances, the patient should experience no pain and be comfortable as the sedation quickly wears off. Regardless of how well you feel after a sedated procedure, you cannot drive on the day of your procedure.

For more information about colonoscopy or colorectal cancer or to schedule an appointment, call 903-531-8950 or schedule online.

What is Crohn’s disease?

Crohn’s disease is a type of bowel disease that causes inflammation in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. The inflammation may cause debilitating abdominal pain, diarrhea and weight loss.

Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract and causes inflammation that spreads into deep tissue layers.

By comparison, ulcerative colitis, another type of inflammatory bowel disease, causes inflammation to the lining of your intestine, and only affects the large intestine or rectum.

Researchers are still investigating what causes someone to develop Crohn’s disease, but theorize the inflammatory condition may occur from a combination of genetics and exposure to bacteria that may lead to the inflammation.

What are Crohn’s disease symptoms?

Crohn’s disease symptoms vary in type and severity. Some people only experience mild symptoms. Others may experience severe and debilitating symptoms.

Common Crohn’s disease symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloody stools
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Anal pain during a bowel movement

The inflammation from Crohn’s disease may severely damage your gastrointestinal tract and cause serious health complications such as malnutrition, obstruction or a fistula (tunnel through your gastrointestinal tract).

How is Crohn’s disease diagnosed?

There is no single test that can diagnose Crohn’s disease.

When you visit UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center with symptoms suggestive of Crohn’s disease, our gastroenterology team will conduct an in-depth clinical evaluation.

During the appointment, a gastroenterologist will review the patient’s symptoms and medical and family history, as well as perform a physical exam. Diagnostic tests also are conducted to confirm or rule out other causes. Testing may include:

  • Blood test
  • Stool analysis
  • Colonoscopy
  • Endoscopy
  • Capsule endoscopy
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Our board-certified gastroenterologists at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center will perform the endoscopic procedures in the Digestive Disease Center at Olympic Plaza.

How is Crohn’s disease treated?

Your physician will develop an individualized treatment plan for Crohn’s disease based on the severity of your condition, symptoms and overall health. Your treatment plan may include:

  • Nutrition therapy
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Immune suppressing medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Medications to manage symptoms

If your Crohn’s disease is severe and fails to respond to medical intervention, UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center may recommend surgery to remove the damaged portion of your gastrointestinal tract.

To schedule your Crohn’s disease consultation, call 903-531-8950.

What is an endoscopy?

An endoscopy (EDG) is an examination performed using an endoscope, a flexible fiber-optic tube with a tiny camera at the end. The camera is connected to a video screen that displays the images on a color monitor. The endoscope not only allows the diagnosis of gastrointestinal (GI) disease, but treatment as well.

A gastroenterologist may perform an endoscopy to investigate symptoms of:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Prolonged nausea and vomiting
  • Heartburn
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Anemia
  • Bleeding in the upper GI tract or bowel movements

An EDG can be used to identify conditions such as:

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Narrowing (strictures) or blockages
  • Larger than normal veins in the esophagus
  • Redness, inflammation and sores (ulcers)
  • Tumors, either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign)
  • Crohn’s disease of the upper GI tract
  • Infections of the upper GI tract

Modern EDG has relatively few risks, delivers detailed images and is quick to carry out. EDGs have proven extremely useful in many areas of medicine. Roughly 75 million endoscopies are performed each year in the United States.

Preparing for an EDG

Preparing for an endoscopy does not require an overnight stay in the hospital and typically takes one hour to complete. You will be asked to come at least one hour before your scheduled appointment. At that time, you will be rigorously evaluated by an anesthesiologist who will put you to sleep for the procedure. The physician will provide instructions about the preparation for the procedure.

For many types of EDGs, you will need to fast for at least six to eight hours. You may be asked to take a laxative, or you may have to drink a special fluid that helps prepare your bowel.

Upon arrival, the physician will explain the procedure in detail, including possible complications and side effects. The doctor also will answer any questions you may have.

You will be asked about any allergies or general health problems that you may have. You will then be asked to sign a consent form indicating your agreement to proceed with the test.

An intravenous (IV) line will be started in your arm or hand. Most of the time, an EGD is performed under sedation. You will be given a combination of intravenous medications, which make you very relaxed and sleepy during the procedure. You may not remember anything about the procedure itself. Due to these medications, you will need a friend or relative to drive them home.

What happens during an EGD?

The Digestive Disease Center at UT Health East Texas offers ready access to colorectal and endoscopic procedures, including EGDs.

You will be asked to wear a hospital gown and, if applicable, to remove your eyeglasses and/or dentures. A local anesthetic (pain-relieving medication) may be applied at the back of your throat. You will be asked to lie on your left side during the procedure.

During an EGD, the gastroenterologist will guide a tiny tube down the throat and into the stomach or duodenum. A mouth guard will be placed in your mouth to keep you from biting down on the tube.

You may feel some pressure or swelling as the tube moves along. If needed, samples of fluid or tissue can be taken at any time during the test.

Recovering after an EGD

After an upper GI endoscopy, the patient can expect the following:

  • To stay at the outpatient center for one hour after the procedure, so the sedative can wear off.
  • To rest at home for the rest of the day.
  • Bloating or nausea for a short time after the procedure.
  • A sore throat for one to two days.
  • To return to your regular diet once swallowing returns to normal.
  • After the procedure, you and the friend or family member who is with you will receive instructions on your care when you are home. It is essential you follow all instructions given by your healthcare provider.

An EDG is considered a safe procedure. The risks of complications are low, but may include:

  • Bleeding from the site where the doctor took the tissue samples or removed a polyp.
  • Perforation in the lining of your upper GI tract.
  • An abnormal reaction to the sedative, including breathing or heart problems.

You should call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Fever or chills.
  • Redness, swelling or bleeding from the IV site.
  • Belly pain, nausea or vomiting.
  • Throat or chest pain that gets worse.

If you have any questions or would like more information about an endoscopy, call 903-531-8950.

What are gallstones?

Gallstones are hard stones inside your gallbladder or bile ducts. They can be smaller than a grain of rice, as large as a golf ball or anywhere in-between. It is possible to have one larger gallstone or many small gallstones.

Cholesterol gallstones, the most common kind among Americans, are predominantly undissolved cholesterol. Bilirubin gallstones are mainly undissolved bilirubin. You also can have combination stones.

When gallstones cause symptoms, they can be quite serious and require immediate treatment.

What are the symptoms of gallstones?

In many cases, gallstones do not cause any symptoms. Gallstones prevent normal bile flow or get into the ducts inside your biliary tract and can cause a gallstone attack. Symptoms of a gallstone attack often include:

  • Intermittent upper right abdominal pain, which may move up to the shoulder.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Heavy sweating.

Gallstone attacks can last for 15 minutes up to several hours. The attacks frequently begin following a meal but can also start overnight. Attacks may occur at unpredictable intervals.

Untreated gallstones can lead to jaundice, pancreatitis and other very serious complications. Usually, symptoms only occur if you already have gallstone-related damage.

What causes gallstones?

The exact causes of gallstones are not completely certain at this time. Research shows that certain factors increase your risk of developing gallstones:

  • Having high cholesterol or bilirubin levels in your digestive juices (bile).
  • Obesity.
  • Sedentary lifestyle.
  • Female.
  • Over 40 years of age.
  • Diabetic.
  • Liver disease.
  • Taking estrogen.
  • Rapid weight loss.

Race may also play a role, as certain ethnic groups have quite different rates of gallstone disease. For example, Hispanics are quite vulnerable to gallstones, but Asians rarely develop them.

How do you treat gallstones?

Asymptomatic gallstones usually do not need treatment. However, if you are having gallbladder attacks or complications, your primary care provider may recommend endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) or cholecystectomy.

ERCP

In ERCP, the physician inserts an endoscope, a long slender tube with a tiny camera and light, through the patients mouth and into the first part of the small intestine. Then, they examine the bile ducts and remove stones within them. ERCP cannot remove stones inside the gallbladder.

Cholecystectomy

If you have stones inside your gallbladder, cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal) is the best treatment. Often, the UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center will refer you to the surgeons who perform this operation laparoscopically using small abdominal incisions.

To schedule an appointment, call 903-531-8950.

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a disease that happens when you have frequent acid reflux. In acid reflux, stomach acid frequently washes up into the esophagus, the tube that food moves down to reach your stomach.

The acid backwash happens because of a malfunction in your lower esophageal sphincter, the band of muscle that normally works as a kind of valve to keep your stomach contents from flowing out.

You can have acid reflux occasionally without having GERD — many people have the occasional bout of reflux. But, if you have acid reflux episodes at least twice weekly and your symptoms are severe, you could have GERD, the more severe and chronic type of acid reflux.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

GERD causes several difficult symptoms, including:

  • Heartburn - burning chest area pain, often after eating.
  • The sensation of food regurgitation.
  • Hoarse voice.
  • Bad taste in the mouth.
  • Chronic sore or burning throat.
  • Persistent lump-in-throat sensation.
  • Swallowing pain.
  • Food sticking in the throat.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Burping more than normal.

In severe cases, GERD can cause symptoms like severe chest pain during physical activity, unintended weight loss, vomiting blood and red or black stools.

Untreated, GERD could cause complications such as esophageal narrowing (strictures), esophagus inflammation, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. If you have these symptoms, it is important to get assessed by the specialists at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center as soon as possible.

What is the best treatment for GERD?

At UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center, you receive a comprehensive exam to determine what treatment for GERD is best. Typically, your doctor can diagnose you with a symptom evaluation alone, but if your GERD symptoms do not improve with treatment, you may need an upper endoscopy, possibly including a biopsy to check for other problems.

GERD treatment usually includes both nutrition changes and medication.

GERD medication

Medications can include antacids, histamine type-2 receptor antagonists and proton-pump inhibitors. These drugs work by neutralizing, reducing or blocking stomach acid. Another type of medication can strengthen your lower esophageal sphincter to help it function more effectively.

GERD nutrition

Your doctor may recommend some specific changes, like omitting the foods that give you heartburn, reducing portion sizes and keeping a daily food diary.

In the rare cases that GERD does not respond to conservative care, your doctor may recommend fundoplication, a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which the physician secures the top part of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to prevent acid reflux.

GERD can be frustrating, inconvenient and potentially fatal. Do not ignore your symptoms. The specialists at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center are here to help. Call 903-539-8950 to schedule an appointment.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis is a group of diseases involving liver inflammation. Viral hepatitis, which includes hepatitis types A-E, occurs when a virus attacks your liver. Hepatitis B and C are both common in the United States.

Both hepatitis B and C can cause liver cirrhosis and can increase your risk of liver cancer. Hepatitis C is the more serious of the two.

Hepatitis B and C can be either acute or chronic. Acute infections last less than six months and chronic infections last longer. Hepatitis C is more likely to progress from acute to chronic. Up to 85% of hepatitis C sufferers develop the chronic form of the infection.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Symptoms of viral hepatitis can include:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Chronic headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Chronic tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dark urine
  • Pale stools
  • Yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Upper abdominal pain

Hepatitis B and C do not necessarily cause immediate symptoms. It can sometimes take years for the signs of liver disease to appear.

How do you get viral hepatitis?

Viral hepatitis spreads in several ways. With hepatitis B, the virus may spread through bodily fluids. It often spreads through:

  • Shared needles
  • Sexual transmission
  • Mother-to-child, during birth

Hepatitis C typically spreads through blood contact, which often occurs with shared needles. Less commonly, hepatitis C also may spread through sexual contact or birth.

How do you diagnose viral hepatitis?

The physicians at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center typically diagnose viral hepatitis using a blood test. The blood test also identifies the stage of your disease.

In some cases, you may need a liver biopsy so your physician can tailor your treatment according to your degree of liver scarring.

What is the treatment for hepatitis B or C?

Gastroenterologists at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center offer a variety of treatments for hepatitis.

Acute hepatitis B does not typically need treatment unless it is very acute with a liver disorder or the disease progresses to chronic. Acute hepatitis C does require treatment, because it so often progresses to the chronic type of the disease without intervention.

Treatment for chronic hepatitis B usually involves antiviral medications. Although treatment cannot completely eliminate the virus, it can control it very effectively.

Treatment for hepatitis C usually involves oral antiviral medications. Hepatitis C is curable, but prompt action is the best way to eliminate the virus before it causes long-term damage.

For more information regarding hepatitis or to schedule an appointment, call the UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center at 903-531-8950.

What is pancreas disease?

Pancreas disease is a group of different diseases and conditions affecting the pancreas, the gland in the back of the stomach. The pancreas creates pancreatic enzymes and hormones to help break down food and use it for energy.

Pancreas damage and malfunction can lead to a number of serious health issues, including diabetes.

What are the different types of pancreas disease?

The most common forms of pancreas disease include:

Acute pancreatitis

Pancreas inflammation causes serious upper stomach pain and other symptoms like fever, diarrhea, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Acute pancreatitis attacks usually occur suddenly and last for a few days. Gallstones are a common cause of acute pancreatitis.

Chronic pancreatitis

Chronic pancreatitis has the same symptoms as acute pancreatitis. But, with chronic pancreatitis, the pancreas inflammation is constant rather than in short bouts. Long-term, chronic pancreatitis can destroy your pancreas completely, leading to malnutrition, weight loss and diabetes.

Pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths, accounting for 7% of all cancer deaths. Pancreatic cancer often develops without causing symptoms, but it may cause yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

How do you treat pancreas disease?

Treatment for pancreas disease depends on the disease and symptoms. Your physician may conduct blood tests, stool tests, imaging exams and possibly an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), an endoscopic procedure in which your doctor examines your pancreatic and bile ducts to determine your specific disease.

If you have underlying issues like gallstones, the gastroenterology team at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center treat those problems first. You also may need treatment for diabetes or other problems caused by your pancreas disease.

Nutrition and lifestyle changes also are important for pancreas disease treatments. This usually includes implementing a healthy low-fat diet, eliminating alcohol consumption and stopping smoking. Certain dietary supplements also can help with digestion and overall health.

Pancreatic cancer treatment depends on the age of the patient, expected life span, personal wishes and other factors specific to the patient. In some cases, particularly early-stage pancreatic cancer, surgical resection — partial or total pancreas removal — is the best treatment to cure the disease.

In cases of late-stage pancreatic cancer that likely will not improve with resection, the patient still has options like clinical trial participation and alternative therapies. UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center is here to educate and support you in all your treatment decisions.

For help with pancreas disease, call the experts at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center at 903-531-8950.

What is ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis is a disease in which the lining of the large intestine becomes inflamed and irritated. This disease occurs in the rectum (the lower large intestine). It also can occur in your colon (the upper large intestine). Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are the two inflammatory bowel diseases.

What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?

Ulcerative colitis usually causes symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal cramping
  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Diarrhea
  • Fecal urgency
  • The sensation of a full rectum, even after a bowel movement

Severe ulcerative colitis can trigger more serious symptoms:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Dehydration
  • Fever

These symptoms also may occur in other diseases and conditions, including Crohn's disease and irritable bowel syndrome. The gastroenterologists at UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center are highly experienced diagnosticians who can find the reason and appropriate treatment for your symptoms.

How are ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease different?

Symptoms of the two diseases are similar, and both alternate periods of illness and remission. However, there are some important differences.

Ulcerative colitis features inflammation in your innermost large intestine lining, while Crohn's causes inflammation throughout all tissue layers.

While ulcerative colitis occurs only in your large intestine, Crohn's disease is often more widespread. It can develop anywhere in your digestive tract, even as high up as your mouth.

How do you diagnose ulcerative colitis?

Diagnosis can include blood work, stool testing, radiologic imaging and endoscopic procedures like capsule endoscopy. Typically, your physician performs a minimally invasive procedure like colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy to view your large intestine in detail and confirm your ulcerative colitis diagnosis.

How do you treat ulcerative colitis?

The first treatment goal is getting the patient into remission. To do so, the patient may take medications such as aminosalicylates, corticosteroids, immunomodulators or biologics. The patient may need additional medication for troublesome symptoms like diarrhea. Once you are in remission, treatment goals shift to avoiding relapse. To avoid relapse, the patient must strictly follow medication recommendations long-term or they could consider surgery.

If medication does not work for the patient, or if drug side-effects make them sick, surgery to remove your colon and rectum might be the best solution. Large intestine removal is the only cure for ulcerative colitis currently, but it is a major decision. Your doctor can explain all the benefits and potential drawbacks.

To schedule an appointment, call UT Health East Texas Digestive Disease Center at 903-531-8950.

Catch colon cancer early

Colorectal cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, with proper screening, colon and rectal cancer can be prevented.  Colorectal cancer often starts in the large intestine (colon and rectum) as a polyp, a small growth on the inner lining of the colon. Symptoms can be nonspecific. Common abdominal ailments or a change in bowel habits are common occurrences, but don’t always mean you have colorectal cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, the recommended age to start regular colorectal screening is 45 unless you have a family history of colorectal cancer or predisposing, inherited syndrome.

Other factors that may contribute to colonic polyps include inflammatory bowel disease, smoking, obesity, drinking alcohol, lack of exercise and eating a diet rich in fats.

colonoscopy is the best way to detect colorectal cancer. This examines the entire large intestine and detects the presence of polyps that could be or possibly become cancerous. When discovered early, colon cancer is highly treatable, so colonoscopy screening is crucial.

Screening is recommended for patients who have the following symptoms:

  • Blood in the stool
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Change in bowel habits or lower abdominal cramping
  • Family history of colon cancer and over age 40
  • Over age 45 (even without symptoms)

 

Follow us on Facebook as we spread awareness of colorectal cancer, prevention and early detection, and treatment options.

For more information or to schedule your colonoscopy, talk to your doctor or call 903-747-4737.

Providers For Digestive Diseases

Rebecca Cali, MD
Colorectal surgery

Joseph B. Coopwood, MD, FACS
General Surgery, Wound Care

David C. Lundy, MD
Gastroenterology