When do doctors knock on your stomach

Common diseases of the stomach and intestines

Inflammation and infections as well as cancer are among the most common diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and can occur at any age. However, through regular preventive examinations at an internist or gastroenterologist, many diseases can be identified and treated at an early stage. In this way, they increase the chances of success of a therapy and are in some cases even covered by the health insurance companies.

  • Diseases of the esophagus
  • Diseases of the stomach
  • Diseases of the intestines

Diseases of the esophagus

Common symptoms of a disease of the esophagus are:

  • difficulties swallowing
  • Vomiting, heartburn
  • to cough
  • Pain behind the sternum

The most common complication is inflammation of the esophagus, also known in technical terms as gastroesophageal reflux disease. The cause is an impaired occlusion of the esophagus in relation to the stomach. This allows stomach acid to flow back unhindered into the esophagus, where it causes a violent burning sensation known as heartburn. If left untreated, the wall of the esophagus can become inflamed and ulcerate.

Inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) caused by bacteria, viruses or fungi is usually only found in patients with a weakened immune system (e.g. AIDS or tumor patients). Other factors such as alcohol or medication can also promote inflammation.

In the course of liver cirrhosis, varicose veins can form in the esophagus. As the blood builds up in the damaged liver, it is diverted through the esophagus. The veins expand, similar to varicose veins on the leg. They can bleed very easily, which can be life-threatening.

Esophageal cancer is rare. Men are about 3 times as likely to be affected as women. It is one of the types of cancer that only causes symptoms very late, mainly due to swallowing disorders.

Diseases of the stomach

Signs of stomach disease are:

  • Sensation of pressure in the upper abdomen
  • nausea
  • Vomit
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tension pain in the stomach area

In most cases, inflammation of the lining of the stomach (gastritis) causes these types of symptoms. It usually arises from an imbalance between acid production and acid protection in the stomach. The stomach acid then attacks the mucous membrane. Acute stomach inflammation is triggered by medication, excessive alcohol or nicotine consumption, bacteria or viruses.

Chronic stomach inflammation can be caused by the stomach bacterium Helicobacter pylori. If it is not discovered and treated in time, it will cause open wounds in the stomach and duodenum. If these ulcers extend deep into the mucous membrane and reach blood vessels, bleeding or even a gastric perforation can result.

Stomach cancer is usually caused by hereditary factors or an unhealthy diet, smoking and alcohol. An infection with Helicobacter pylori can also promote the development.

In 30-50% of patients who see a doctor about stomach problems, the doctor finds an irritable stomach. This is a disease of the stomach in which symptoms occur without any pathological changes in the stomach being detected. The underlying causes have not yet been clearly clarified. Eating habits, food intolerances and psychological stressful situations are considered to be triggers.

A typical disease of the duodenum is the duodenal ulcer. It often develops along with gastric ulcers in the upper part of the duodenum, which is the most exposed to stomach acid. Over 80% of the cases are caused by Helicobacter pylori.

Diseases of the intestines

Patients with bowel disease often have the following symptoms:

  • Stool irregularities such as diarrhea or constipation
  • Pain or cramps all over the abdomen
  • Flatulence combined with blood in the stool or increased mucus build-up

Intestinal infections are one of the most common bowel diseases. Pathogens and parasites that are absorbed through spoiled food or contaminated drinking water can damage the intestinal mucosa through toxins. Diarrhea, abdominal pain and loss of appetite are the result. Particularly serious infections, some of which are fatal, can be triggered by typhoid and cholera pathogens.

If the inflammation only affects the appendix, it is called appendicitis. It can be triggered by pathogens or foreign substances (e.g. fruit pits). Typical complaints are pain in the umbilical or epigastric region, nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite and fever. In severe cases, the appendix must be surgically removed, otherwise it can break through the intestinal wall and the intestinal contents enter the abdominal cavity.

Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel diseases. Crohn's disease can affect the entire gastrointestinal tract, but is often limited to the last section of the small intestine (ileum) or the uppermost area of ​​the large intestine (ascending colon). The inflammation usually affects the entire intestinal wall. Ulcerative colitis, on the other hand, affects the large and rectum (colon and rectum); only the intestinal mucosa is inflamed.

Benign tumors are very often found in the colon. They are known as adenomas and are more common with age. As a rule, they are harmless, but changes in the genetic material (mutations) can promote the development from adenoma to colon cancer.

Colon cancer is the most common malignant tumor of the digestive tract and has increased significantly in industrialized countries over the past 30 years. Since the chances of recovery are particularly high in the early stages, experts recommend regular preventive examinations from the age of 50.

The appearance of bulges in the intestinal mucosa (diverticula) is typical of the intestine, especially the large intestine. It is believed that they can occur in hard stools when the intestine has to exert too much pressure to transport the intestinal contents further. The increased pressure could encourage the bulges to form. Bleeding and inflammation of the diverticula (diverticulitis) are common complications.

Hemorrhoids are enlargements of a vascular cushion that surrounds the anal canal and closes it together with the muscles. Hereditary factors, a low-fiber diet and an unfavorable sitting posture are considered to be the causes. Hemorrhoids are manifested by blood in the stool, tenderness or itching; in advanced stages, the stool can no longer be held back. The condition is harmless in itself, but can easily be linked to more serious conditions, such as: B. Colon cancer, can be confused. If there is blood in the stool, an internist or gastroenterologist should be consulted.

As with the stomach, there is irritable bowel syndrome in the intestine. Patients complain of chronic abdominal pain, irregular stool and flatulence. However, pathological changes in the intestine are not visible. It is likely caused by poor diet and mental health problems. Since the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and colon cancer are similar, it is easy to confuse the two diseases.

Another classic disorder is celiac disease or indigenous sprue. This is an intolerance of the small intestinal mucosa to gluten. Gluten is a cereal protein found in typical cereals such as rye, wheat and oats. An inheritable enzyme defect is assumed to be the cause.