Gastroenterology - Digestive System Care

Gastroenterology is the medical specialty that seeks to prevent, diagnose, and treat conditions relating to the digestive tract involving organs such as gallbladder, pancreas, liver, oesophagus, stomach, small intestine, colon, and the liver

What are the gastroenterological conditions and symptoms?

1 Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer or rectal cancer, is a type of cancer that starts in the colon or rectum. Cancer occurs when cells within the body begin to grow rapidly and out of control.

The majority of colon cancers begin as small, pre-cancerous polyps. While patients are often asymptomatic at this stage, with time, these polyps can progress to cancer. The prognosis will depend on the size and extent of the cancer. Early-stage colon cancer may not be symptomatic.

Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include:

  • Gastrointestinal pain or cramping
  • Bloating
  • Changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea, constipation)
  • Blood in stool
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue

2 Diverticulitis

Diverticula are small pockets in the lining of the intestine that develop with age. If the diverticula become infected, the condition is called diverticulitis. Lack of dietary fibre increases the risk of developing diverticulitis.

Symptoms include:

  • Severe abdominal pains
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Bloody stools

3 Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is the frequent occurrence of acid reflux, whereby stomach acid travels up towards the throat due to an abnormally relaxed ring of muscles called the lower oesophageal sphincter, which connects the lower end of the oesophagus to the stomach.

Common signs and symptoms of GERD include:

  • Heartburn (a burning sensation in the chest), usually after eating
  • Sour taste in your mouth

GERD symptoms may be alleviated by:

  • Not lying down immediately after eating
  • Sleeping with your head elevated
  • Avoiding common "trigger foods" that you have observed to cause symptoms of GERD
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding cigarettes and alcohol
  • Not wearing belts or pants that constrict the stomach

4 Inflammatory

bowel disease (IBD)

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is mainly caused by two conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Ulcerative colitis affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum and causes chronic inflammation and ulcers (sores) to form.

Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease can involve different areas of the digestive tract though it often occurs at the end of the small bowel (the ileum). Crohn’s disease can also affect the entire bowel wall, with affected areas interspersed between healthy colon.

IBD may be associated with:

  • An overactive immune system, which results in inflammation
  • Bacteria or virus triggered
  • Environmental factors that trigger the immune response
  • Genetic factors

Symptoms include:

  • Intermittent rectal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue

5 Haemorrhoids

Haemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen veins in your anus and lower rectum. They typically occur from straining during bowel movements. Haemorrhoids are very common.

Symptoms may include:

  • Painless bleeding during bowel movements
  • Itching, pain, or discomfort around the anal region
  • A lump protruding from the anus, which may be sensitive or painful

6 Irritable

bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that affects the large intestine. It is a constellation of symptoms including:

  • Abdominal pain relieved with bowel movements
  • Intermittent periods of diarrhoea and constipation
  • Change in the stool frequency or consistency
  • Bloating
  • Loss of appetite

Diagnosis and screening for gastroenterological conditions

Many gastrointestinal conditions have similar symptoms. A proper diagnosis first involves the gastroenterologist asking the patient about their medical and family history followed by a physical examination.

Your doctor may also request additional lab tests and imaging examinations such as those listed below:

1 Blood tests

Blood tests such as blood counts, liver function test, and pancreatic enzyme test can help diagnose conditions such as bacterial or parasitic infection, celiac disease, lactose intolerance or cause of diarrhoea. Blood tests may also exclude other serious diseases.

2 Stool analysis

Stool analysis used in tests such as faecal occult blood tests used for colorectal cancer screening can help assess the intestinal health by analysing changes in colour, consistency, pH as well as the presence of mucus, blood, white blood cells, bile, fat, and sugars. Understanding the profile can help determine the presence of indigestion, constipation, diarrhoea, malabsorption, and infection.

3 Endoscopy

An endoscopy allows the close examination of the stomach or digestive tract using an instrument that looks like a long tube with a camera at the end called an endoscope. Biopsies may also be taken during an endoscopy to be examined under a microscope to help detect cancer cells.

4 Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy is a medical procedure performed to detect polyps and other abnormal growths. A camera embedded at the end of a flexible tube is passed through the anus, allowing for examination of the large bowel and part of the small bowel.

5 Abdominal


An abdominal ultrasound uses sound waves to produce dynamic images of organs such as the liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.

6 CT and

MRI scans

Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans provide a cross-sectional view of the abdominal organs which helps the doctors visualise the internal structures of the body.

What are the treatment options for gastroenterological conditions?

The goal is to help you get back to your daily life and activities. The selection of treatment options such as those listed below by your medical team will largely depend on the individual's condition and health history.

1 Colorectal cancer

Surgery to remove the cancer is typically the main treatment method for colorectal cancer. Your doctor may also choose to use chemotherapy and radiation therapy before and/or after surgery.

2 Gastroesophageal reflux disease

Your doctor may prescribe drugs that neutralise, reduce, and block stomach acid production.

If surgery is required, procedures such as those below may be offered:

Fundoplication (the top of your stomach is wrapped around the lower oesophageal sphincter, to tighten the muscle and prevent reflux)

Insertion of the LINX device (a string of magnetic beads is wrapped around the top of the stomach, allowing the magnetism to draw the junction close but enable food to flow through)

3 Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Your doctor will treat the inflammation that triggers your symptoms using drugs to reduce inflammation, suppress the immune system that causes inflammation and antibiotic to treat any infection. Depending on your condition, pain relief and anti-diarrhoea medication may also be given.

As bowel rest can reduce inflammation, nutrition through a feeding tube or nutrients injected into a vein may be prescribed in very severe cases.

Surgery to remove diseased portions of the intestines may sometimes be necessary in severe cases.

4 Haemorrhoids

There are four stages of haemorrhoid development. For stage 1 and stage 2 haemorrhoids, lifestyle modification and medical treatment may be sufficient. Treatment includes eating high fibre foods, using topical treatments, soaking in warm water, and keeping the anal area clean. Haemorrhoid symptoms often go away within a week.

For persistent bleeding or painful haemorrhoids, your doctor could undertake a rubber band ligation where the doctor places one or two small bands around the base of a haemorrhoid to cut off its circulation. Alternatives include an injection (sclerotherapy) or coagulation through infrared or laser, to reduce the size of the haemorrhoid.

If surgery is required, two options include:

  • Haemorrhoidectomy, which is the most effective and complete way to treat severe or recurring haemorrhoids
  • Stapled haemorrhoidectomy or stapled haemorrhoidopexy, which blocks blood flow to haemorrhoidal tissue and is typically used only for internal haemorrhoids. Although less painful, this procedure has a greater risk of recurrence compared to a haemorrhoidectomy

5 Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis is treated using diet changes, antibiotics, and possibly surgery.

Mild diverticulitis infection may be treated with rest, liquid diet, antibiotics, and stool softeners.

If the infection is severe, you may be given antibiotics, nutrition given through the vein and surgery may sometimes be necessary.

6 Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Your doctor may suggest changes in your diet, removing foods that cause bloating such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower, gluten and certain carbohydrates such as fructose, fructans, and lactose.

Depending on your symptoms, fibre supplements, laxative and anti-diarrheal medication may also be prescribed.

Your doctor could also suggest prescription-only drugs to:

  • Ease diarrhoea by reducing muscle contractions and fluid secretion in the intestine, and increasing muscle tone in the rectum
  • Decrease bacterial overgrowth and diarrhoea
  • Increase fluid secretion in your small intestine to help you pass stool

If you are living with a gastrointestinal condition, our skilled and dedicated staff can provide the latest treatments to help you get back to your daily activities and improve the quality of your life.

How to keep your gut healthy?

Our gastrointestinal tract serves many essential roles in sustaining our overall health and wellness, beginning with our food and water. The digestive process provides the building blocks we need to live, to function, and to stay healthy.

Here are just a few important factors in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system:

  • Eat healthily
  • Take time to thoroughly chew your food
  • Keep active
  • Manage stress
  • Undergo routine recommended health screens
  • Stay hydrated
  • Maintain a healthy sleep schedule
  • Include an adequate amount of fibre in your diet
  • Consider taking a probiotic supplement

When to see a Gastroenterologist or Gastroenterology Specialist?

Gastroenterologists are physicians who specialise in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. They are also trained to treat diseases related to the liver, pancreas, gallbladder, and bile ducts. Gastroenterologists work primarily in hospital and clinic settings.

You may want to see a Gastroenterology Specialist if:

  • You are experiencing abdominal pain that does not seem to go away
  • You experience digestive issues frequently, such as diarrhoea or constipation
  • You have unexplained blood in your stool
  • You have difficulty swallowing
  • You experience heartburn or acid reflux constantly
  • You experience bloatedness

You may also want to have regular screenings with a Gastroenterologist if you are over 50 years old for preventive care of colorectal cancer. This is especially so if you have a family history of this disease.

If you have any of these lifestyle risk factors, it may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer:

  • Lack of regular physical activity
  • A diet low in fruit and vegetables
  • A low-fibre and high-fat diet, or a diet high in processed meats.
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use

If you have the following risk factors for hepatological conditions, you should also see a Hepatologist for screening and treatment.

  • Viral hepatitis
  • Liver cirrhosis (one of the critical liver diseases)
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Alcoholic liver disease

Find a Gastroenterologist Near Me

If you or your loved ones have any gastrointestinal health concerns, the multidisciplinary team of Gastroenterologists and Hepatologists are available for consultations at Pantai Hospitals to deal with any gastrointestinal diseases.

At Pantai Hospitals, we can provide the necessary diagnostic and screening services in a modern and comfortable environment. Your test results will be reviewed by a doctor who can explain and offer treatment options based on your condition, lifestyle, and risk factors.

*Information on this page does not represent a complete list of all the diagnostic procedures and treatments that Pantai Hospitals provide. The information provided is for educational reference only and should not be seen as medical advice.

Please consult a qualified healthcare specialist at the Pantai Hospital nearest to you for an accurate diagnosis before starting on any treatment.

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