The Center for Digestive Health’s team of multidisciplinary specialists — including a dedicated radiologist and pathologist — offers cutting-edge medical and surgical treatments for a variety of digestive health illnesses. We provide professional services for women’s health, pediatrics and IBD patients; colon, rectal, bariatric, hepatobiliary, upper gastrointestinal and pancreatic surgery; and gastrointestinal nutrition.
One of our major strengths is the level of clinical expertise across all major areas of digestive health, including:
- Colon and rectal surgery
- Crohn’s disease
- Transition from adolescent to adult care
- Ulcerative colitis
Inflammatory bowel disease
The inflammatory bowel diseases are chronic, intermittent intestinal inflammations that are thought to result from inappropriate responses by the immune system to bacteria normally found in the intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding and, in cases of childhood onset, growth retardation. IBD occurs frequently in young people, with a peak age of onset between ages 15 and 30. When grouped together, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are referred to as inflammatory bowel disease.
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Crohn’s disease is a chronic illness in which the intestine becomes inflamed and ulcerated. The disease can occur in any part of the large or small intestine, stomach, esophagus or mouth, but most commonly affects the lower part of the small intestine.
Crohn’s disease can occur at any age, but is most commonly experienced in patients between the ages of 15 and 30. Symptoms may include chronic diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weight loss, fever, abdominal pain and tenderness, feeling of mass or fullness in the lower-right abdomen, and delayed development and stunted growth in children. Symptoms can be severe at times, followed by periods of remission that can last for weeks or even years.
A number of tests are used to distinguish Crohn’s disease from other gastrointestinal conditions, including endoscopy, blood tests, barium X-ray and CT scan.
Treatment for Crohn’s disease is determined by the severity and location of the disease. When the disease is active, treatment is aimed at controlling inflammation, correcting nutritional deficiencies and relieving symptoms. Medications — such as anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, corticosteroids, antidiarrheals, immune-suppressing medications and nutritional supplements — are often the first step in treatment. While it doesn’t cure Crohn’s disease, surgery may be necessry in patients who don’t respond to medications, as well as to correct perforations, blockages or bleeding in the intestine.
A healthy lifestyle is also important when managing Crohn’s disease, even during remission. In addition to regular exercise and a healthy diet, abstaining from smoking also can prevent the recurrence of symptoms.
Ulcerative colitis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the lining of the large intestine and rectum. Tiny ulcers and small abscesses in the colon and rectum flare up and cause bloody stools and diarrhea. The inflammation usually begins in the rectum and spreads to other segments of the colon, but does not affect the esophagus, stomach or small intestine.
The main symptom of ulcerative colitis is diarrhea that often becomes bloody, but occasionally symptoms may include severe bloody diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal pain and fever, painful and urgent bowel movements, or pus or blood in the stool. The disease may also be associated with weight loss, persistent canker sores, joint pain and soreness, eye pain when looking at a bright light, anemia or skin lesions.
A variety of diagnostic procedures and laboratory tests are used to distinguish ulcerative colitis from other conditions, including endoscopy, blood tests, stool samples, barium X-ray and other X-ray procedures, such as MRI and CT scan.
It is important to seek treatment as soon as symptoms occur. In cases of severe diarrhea and bleeding, hospitalization may be necessary to prevent or treat dehydration, reduce symptoms and ensure proper nutrition.
Treatment for ulcerative colitis can include drug therapy, dietary modifications and surgery. Medications — such as 5-aminosalicylic drugs, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive agents and antibiotics — are used to reduce inflammation of the bowel tissue, allowing it to heal and relieve symptoms. For mild to moderate ulcerative colitis, a diet high in protein and calories and low in fiber may be recommended. Surgery to remove the entire colon may be necessary when medications are not effective or severe complications occur. Surgery to remove the entire large intestine or both the colon and rectum removes the threat of colon cancer. All of these treatments allow patients to lead more normal lives, but cannot cure the disease.