Abdominal pain is one of the most common conditions that we experience over our lives. Not only are there a multitude of disorders and diseases of the abdomen, but there are many benign concerns that may cause transient abdominal pain as well. Sometimes, symptoms are not terribly specific to a particular issue or condition, so to get right to it, it is advisable to make an appointment with your primary care physician or a general surgeon if you are experiencing abdominal pain without any obvious cause. However, we can generally classify abdominal issues based on where and when the pain occurs. Some of these can include:
With the rise in obesity in the United States, we have seen an equivalent rise in disorders of the esophagus not least of which is gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD. Many patients pass this off as a minor inconvenience — ignore. They then live with the regular burn in the chest, often throwing back antacids daily. However, the condition does often get worse, especially if patients do not address the underlying weight or other issues that may be causing it.
Eventually, this constant wash of acid into the esophagus can cause the esophageal tissue – not used to the acidic environment – to adapt as stomach tissue. This cellular change is known as Barrett’s Esophagus and is considered pre-cancerous. Indeed, about 10% of patients with Barrett’s esophagus may ultimately develop esophageal cancer if they do not address the issue in time.
GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is more than just heartburn. In fact, it is the condition whereby acid refluxes back into the esophagus on a regular basis several times a week, for several weeks or more. For those that suffer from GERD, large meals, and especially those that revolve around family gatherings or holidays, can be daunting. How many times have you turned to somebody and said, “I’m going to pay for that later.” For people with moderate-to -severe GERD, this is a distinct reality.
Even more important than the discomfort and lifestyle impediments of GERD is that it can cause cellular changes in the esophagus that can ultimately lead to much more serious issues. As stomach acid pushes up into the esophagus, the cellular composition of the esophagus changes, trying to mimic the stomach lining. This is known as Barrett’s esophagus and is a precursor to esophageal cancer. As such, those suffering from GERD should have it evaluated and treated as soon as possible.
Of all the disorders affecting the colon, diverticulosis and diverticulitis are some of the most common. However, these two conditions are unique with very different symptoms and treatments despite the similar name. To understand diverticulosis, you need to know more about the colon. The colon is a wide tube-like structure that starts in the bottom right quadrant of the abdomen, up your right side, across the middle of your upper abdomen and down the left side where it connects to the rectum. The colon collects solid waste and turns it into feces that can be pushed out during a bowel movement. The lining of the colon is typically very smooth.
Synthetic hernia mesh is a repair solution that has been used for decades, with a long history of controversy, many strong proponents and some detractors. However, before we get into whether hernia mesh is right for you, it’s worth looking back into the history of mesh and how it has changed the surgical landscape.
Prior to the use of hernia mesh, hernia defects were sutured closed in what is known as a tension repair. While repairs were often very successful in the short-term, they had a serious follow-on problem. Up to 30% of hernias would recur; or come back. The tension placed on the skin by the sutures holding the hernia defect closed could eventually wear down the tissue causing it to rip and re-open.
It is estimated that about one-in-eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of their lives. And while this seems like a startling number, it is worth noting that an incredible amount of research and awareness has yielded benefits in the form of steadily fewer cases of severe breast cancer and fewer deaths. However, one significant risk that we, as a society, have not yet been able to manage, is excess weight.
There have been plenty of studies showing a correlation between excess weight and a higher risk of certain forms of cancer including breast cancer. Excess weight also increases the risk of severe breast cancer. Excess weight is not only a drag on the joints and on a patient’s mental health, but it can raise estrogen and insulin levels. Both hormones can increase the risk of breast cancer.
For the past several decades, a procedure known as a fundoplication has been the gold standard in care for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD also known as chronic acid reflux. About 20-30% of all Americans suffer from chronic acid reflux and most are prescribed PPI’s or proton pump inhibitors which reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach. However, these medications, despite now being over the counter, are indicated for only about six weeks of use. Many patients take these medications for months or even years until they opt for a more permanent solution to their problem. PPIs and other acid reducing or blocking medications come with a host of potential side effects, which we will discuss in a separate blog.
It’s a hernia. What’s so bad about that? Well, from an urgency standpoint, there are two different kinds of hernias, non-emergency and emergency and it is impossible to predict when a “run of the mill” hernia turns into an emergency. However, in this blog, we discuss the signs are of a hernia emergency that requires a trip to the ER or dialing 911, when you should speak to your doctor and how you can manage your hernia appropriately.
How does a hernia become an emergency? To understand this, you must know the anatomy of a hernia. The contents of your abdomen are kept in place by a thin but strong layer of tissue known as the fascia. When there is a weak point in the fascia, abdominal contents can push through. This hole in the fascia is what we know as a hernia. Contents of the abdomen pushing through the hernia defect in and of themselves are not an immediate concern other than the pain and potential lifestyle limitations that they may cause. However, if the hernia contents get trapped in the defect, known as incarceration or if their blood supply is cut off, known as strangulation, we have an emergency.
Going under the knife can be an anxiety provoking experience for many people. Luckily, the medical field has made incredible breakthroughs in recent decades that have made surgery pretty seamless. With advanced technology, surgeons can now perform minimally invasive procedures that lead to better results and shorter recovery times and lower risk of infection. Large incisions are, for most, a thing of the past.
It is becoming more and more common to talk about gut health. Tens of millions of bacteria live in your gut and are known as your gut microbiome. The state of your microbiome has a lot to do with your overall health, including managing chronic diseases, reducing inflammation, boosting your mood, and stimulating your brain. There’s lots you can do to promote good bacteria within your microbiome – and the big one is to watch what you eat!