Find out more about this potentially serious gastrointestinal infection and its symptoms.
While most people will deal with bouts of gastroenteritis (colloquially referred to as the “stomach bug”), diarrhea, and even food-borne illnesses such as e. coli, there is another infectious strain that doesn’t get as much recognition but does infect close to half a million Americans each year. This infection is known as C. diff, and our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to tell you more about it.
What is C. diff?
C. diff, or Clostridium difficile, is a bacterial infection of the large intestine that can cause everything from mild diarrhea to more severe diarrhea and abdominal pain with dehydration. Severe cases can be life-threatening.
What are the symptoms?
C. diff can cause a variety of symptoms that mimic that of other conditions. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain and tenderness
If you are dealing with a mild case, you may experience diarrhea and other symptoms for anywhere from five to 10 days. Those with more severe cases may experience symptoms that last well over 10 days.
Since the most classic symptom of C. diff is diarrhea, it’s common for patients to become dehydrated. If you are experiencing diarrhea for more than two days, if there is blood in your stool or if your diarrhea is accompanied by a fever, you should call our Wausau GI doctors right away.
How do you contract C. diff?
Most cases of C.diff infection occur in people who have recently taken an antibiotic for an infection elsewhere in the body. The antibiotic has killed most of the healthy bacteria in the colon. This allows the C.diff to grow and cause the infection in the large intestine. The C.diff can spread from one infectious person to another or through contaminated utensils or clothes. C.diff is more likely to spread in places like hospitals where more patients are on antibiotics and can come in contact with the bacterium.
How is C. diff treated?
Even though there are certain antibiotics that can increase your chances of developing C. diff, if you do develop this infection the best way to treat it is with a round of antibiotics that kill the C.diff bacteria. Metronidazole (Flagyl) and oral Vancomycin are common antibiotics used for treating C. diff.
Sometimes the infection is resistant to treatment. A longer course of these antibiotics or a different antibiotic may be required. A small number of patients may require “Fecal Material Transplantation”. This is a procedure in which healthy bacteria are placed in the colon to combat the C.diff infection.
The team at GI Associates is dedicated to providing comprehensive and gentle digestive treatment and care whenever you need it most. We have locations in Wausau, Stevens Point, Woodruff, Eagle River, Rhinelander, and Antigo, WI. Whether you are dealing with symptoms of C. diff or you are experiencing other issues, don’t hesitate to reach out to us right away to get your GI system back on track.
5 signs it’s time to talk
We all get the occasional bout of heartburn once in a while, but when antacids aren’t enough and it’s happening more and more frequently, it might be time to talk to a doctor. These are some of the signs to watch out for when dealing with persistent heartburn, GERD, or acid reflux.
You’re losing sleep: Nothing is more frustrating than not sleeping well—unless it’s not sleeping well due to acid reflux. If you’ve tried propping yourself up on pillows and these other suggestions, but still aren’t finding relief, it’s time to make an appointment with your doctor.
Chronic cough: It might not be allergies or a lingering cold; your chronic cough may be caused by acid reflux, even if you don’t feel as if you’re experiencing a lot of heartburn. This is something that should be addressed with your doctor.
Nausea and vomiting: If you or a loved one is experiencing nausea and vomiting—and especially if vomiting includes blood or black matter, contact your primary care provider sooner rather than later. Learn more about the connection between nausea, vomiting, GERD, and acid reflex here.
Unexplained weight loss with your heartburn: As welcome as effortless weight loss is, it usually isn’t a sign of good health. If it’s accompanied by heartburn, your best bet is to see a doctor to make sure it isn’t a sign of something worse like esophageal cancer.
Over-the-counter medications aren’t working: If you’ve taken antacids for more than two weeks and it’s not working, this is a warning from your body that something might be wrong. It may be more serious than acid reflux, such as GERD or even Barrett’s esophagus, which you can learn more about here.
Know your options
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Getting screened is essential to the detection and prevention of colon cancer.
Choosing what’s best for you.
Colonoscopy is the most common and effective colorectal cancer screening option because it is the only test that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer.
During a colonoscopy, your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine. If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors.
- Patients with average to high risk of colon cancer
- Preventing colon cancer
Stool DNA test
Another option you can discuss with your doctor is a stool DNA test such as Cologuard.
The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps and detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended. The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.
- Patients at average risk with no symptoms, conditions, personal or family history of colon cancer
- Patients who cannot tolerate colonoscopy prep or procedure
Not recommended for:
- Patients at higher risk with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer
- Patients with underlying conditions and/or symptoms including:
- inflammatory bowel conditions
- blood in their urine or stool
- bleeding hemorrhoids
- rectal bleeding, or are menstruating.
If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to identify the source. It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is classified as a diagnostic service by most payers, so out of pocket costs may apply.
But wait, there’s more . . .
The most important thing in the fight against colorectal cancer is screening. Early detection is crucial and potentially lifesaving. Fortunately, you have options. We encourage you to speak to your doctor about which screening is best for you.
If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.
The choice is yours
When it comes to colon cancer, getting screened is an essential part in your wellness plan. The key is to do something and you have screening options.
It is recommended that colon cancer screening start at age 50 for men and women who are at an average risk with no symptoms.
If colorectal cancer runs in your family or you have certain underlying conditions, you may need to get tested before age 50. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.
Know your options
Colonoscopy is the most common test to detect colon cancer. Other tests include stool DNA tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, double barium enema, and CT colonography. Based on your personal health history, your doctor can recommend the right test for you.
1. Colonoscopy: This is the only colorectal cancer screening option that both detects and prevents colorectal cancer. Prior to a procedure you complete a bowel preparation process that cleans out the colon to enable your doctor to see the lining of your rectum and colon. During a colonoscopy, your doctor gently inserts a colonoscope, which contains a tiny video camera at its tip, through the rectum into your large intestine. Your doctor examines the lining along the entire length of your large intestine.
If your doctor sees abnormal growths of tissue called polyps, tiny instruments are inserted through the colonoscope to remove them. The tissue samples are sent to a pathologist to evaluate whether they are benign, precancerous or malignant. Screening colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years between 50 and 75 years of age. It may be more frequently based on your findings and risk factors. If you’d like to learn more about what to expect before a colonoscopy, check out our video.
2. Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT): FIT detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. When a FIT test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended. FIT tests are recommended annually for average risk patients, age of 50 and over, with no symptoms.
3. Stool DNA Tests: The stool DNA test looks for abnormal DNA associated with colon cancer or colon polyps. The test also detects hidden blood in the stool, which can indicate the presence of cancer. If a stool DNA test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended. The stool DNA test is recommended for average risk patients with no symptoms and is usually recommended every 3-5 years.
The stool DNA test is not recommended for higher risk patients with a personal history of colon polyps or cancer, or who have inflammatory bowel conditions, diarrhea, blood in their urine or stool, bleeding hemorrhoids, rectal bleeding, or are menstruating. It is important to note that colonoscopy performed due to a positive stool DNA test is often classified as a diagnostic service by most payers.
4. CT Colonography (also referred to as virtual colonoscopy): A small tube is placed in the rectum and air is pumped into the colon to inflate the bowel. A special computer program creates both 2-dimensional x-ray pictures and a 3-dimensional view of the inside of the colon and rectum, which lets the doctor look for polyps or cancer. If the test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended to remove the growths. Preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. This test may be recommended when completion of a colonoscopy is not possible. It is usually recommended every 5 years.
5. Flexible Sigmoidoscopy: Similar to colonoscopy, this test uses a thin flexible tube with a camera to examine the rectum and left side of the colon. Whereas colonoscopy examines the entire length of the colon, sigmoidoscopy is a partial exam. The preparation is the same as a colonoscopy. When considering colon cancer screening options, flexible sigmoidoscopy is not as complete as a colonoscopy and therefore is not widely recommended for screening purposes. It’s typically repeated every 5 years.
6. Double Barium Enema: This is also called a lower GI tract radiography, in which a barium solution and air are introduced into the colon and a series of x-rays are taken of the entire colon and rectum. Double Barium Enema is often performed in combination with a flexible sigmoidoscopy. If the either of these test is positive a colonoscopy is usually recommended.
Early detection of colorectal cancer is crucial and potentially lifesaving. The most important step you can take is to get screened. GI Associates is proud to offer options to our patients so that together we can determine the best plan for you.
If you have any concerns about coverage or payment for colon cancer screening services, our GI Associates Financial Counselor will work with you to help understand your benefits.
Schedule your colon cancer screening today. Call 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.
8 ways to minimize your risk
Colon Cancer Awareness Month is here. At GI Associates, we are passionate about the prevention and treatment of this potentially deadly disease. Below are eight ways you can minimize your risk of colon cancer:
- Don’t Smoke There’s nothing that is helped by smoking. You can reduce your risk for almost every kind of cancer when you quit. Find more reasons and help here.
- Drink in Moderation While some alcohol in moderation, like a glass of red wine with dinner, may have some health benefits. Keep in mind it’s better for your colon—and the rest of you, if you drink only in moderation.
- Cut Back on Red Meat As with alcohol, a moderate amount of red meat (2-3 servings a week) is just fine. However, studies have shown that a high consumption of red meat can increase your risk of colon cancer by 28%. Save the steak for special occasions.
- Eat Vegetables, Fruits, and Whole Grains Naturally, cutting back on red meat and replacing it with, say, chicken strips will not do you nearly as much good as it will to replace unhealthy foods with the holy trinity of cancer-fighting foods: green veggies, antioxidant-rich fruit, and whole grains.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Exercise Exercise is good for you for many reasons, and one of them is that it reduces your risk of colon and other cancers. In fact, exercise helps fight colon cancer even in those who have the disease.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Weight No surprise here. Even otherwise healthy people who are overweight are at a higher risk for colon cancer.
- Get screened. It’s not anyone’s favorite thing, but getting regular colonoscopies is the best way to prevent colon cancer. Learn more about them here.
- Know Your Family History If your primary relatives (mother, father, brother or sister or your children) is diagnosed with colon cancer, you are at higher risk. Ask around at your next family gathering to make sure you know your family history.
One of the very few “good things” colon cancer has going for it is that it’s preventable. We encourage you to make an appointment to learn more about how to stay free of colon cancer your whole life long.
Find out more about this inflammatory bowel disease and what a diagnosis might mean for you.
Have you or a loved one just been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis? Approximately 907,000 Americans have ulcerative colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation and ulcers within the lining of the colon (large intestines) and rectum. Our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to answer all of your most common questions regarding this intestinal condition.
What are the symptoms of ulcerative colitis?
Symptoms will vary from person to person, but many people with this condition experience mild to moderate symptoms during flare-ups; however, some people with experience severe inflammation and other symptoms. Common symptoms of ulcerative colitis include:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloody diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding and/or pain
- Changes in bowel movement frequency
- Unexpected or sudden weight loss
Keep in mind that if you haven’t been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and you are experiencing some of these symptoms that it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have this type of IBD. In fact, many gastrointestinal issues have similar symptoms, which is why it’s important to visit one of our Wausau GI specialists for a proper diagnosis.
Is ulcerative colitis the same as Crohn’s disease?
While both of these conditions are considered an inflammatory bowel disease and some symptoms may be the same, there are some differences. Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation in the lining of the colon and rectum while Crohn’s disease can produce inflammation anywhere in the digestive tract from the mouth to the rectum. Crohn’s disease may include symptoms such as mouth sores and anal fissures that do not typically occur for people with ulcerative colitis.
How is ulcerative colitis treated?
There are different medications that can effectively manage your ulcerative colitis symptoms. The two most common medications are prescription-strength anti-inflammatories and immunosuppressants. Depending on the symptoms you experience, you may also take over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-diarrheal medications, or even certain supplements.
The only way to get rid of ulcerative colitis is by removing the colon and rectum. This surgical procedure should only be considered if inflammation or ulcers are severe and cannot be controlled through medication.
GI Associates is ready to provide you with the comprehensive gastrointestinal care you need. We have offices in Wausau, Stevens Point, Woodruff, Eagle River, Rhinelander, and Antigo, WI, to serve you better. Regardless of whether you are looking for ulcerative colitis treatment or you are dealing with symptoms, call one of our offices today for an appointment.
When your stomach is growling so loudly that the person across the room can hear it, it’s tempting to grab a handful of chips or a cookie (or three). But if you have GERD, mindless snacking can have painful consequences. Be prepared for when the hunger pangs hit by adding these reflux-busting snacks to your grocery list.
- Non-citrus fruits
- Crackers with any type of nut butter
- Raw vegetables with dip or hummus
- Baked chips
- Half an avocado and some corn chips
- Baked chicken strips (or any small quantity of lean meat, besides red meat)
- Oatmeal or high-fiber cereal
- A baked potato, sweet potato, or yam
- Any type of grain
- Rice cakes
- Granola bars
- Half a bagel
- Lowfat dairy, such as lowfat cottage cheese with vegetables or crackers or fruit
- A hard-boiled egg
- A veggie or fruit (non-citrus) smoothie
Moderation is key
Even when you choose healthy snacks, too much of a good thing is, well, not good at all – especially when you have GERD. Limit your nibbles to small serving sizes, which will keep both your hunger and reflux under control. Experts recommend that you eat three small meals and two snacks daily.
Plan ahead and keep reflux-friendly foods within easy reach for when the hunger pangs hit. Board-certified gastroenterologists at GI Associates can help you manage GERD symptoms and create a diet plan that works best for you. For more information, call (877) 442-7762 or fill out our online form today.
Find out more about this common bowel disease and its symptoms.
Have you, or a member of your family, recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease? If so, then you may be wondering more about this gastrointestinal condition, what causes it and how it’s managed. Our Wausau, WI, gastroenterologists are here to shed a little light on this condition that affects hundreds of thousands of Americans.
What is Crohn’s disease?
This condition causes inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract, which can result in everything from bloody stools to abdominal pain to diarrhea. This condition can even cause inflammation within other areas of the body including the eyes, joints and skin.
What causes this condition?
Unfortunately, the cause of Crohn’s disease is still not fully understood. Some research believes that it could be due to an autoimmune disease, which causes the immune system to attack important gut bacteria, resulting in inflammation.
What are the symptoms?
Those with Crohn’s disease may find that symptoms come and go. You may have weeks or months of remission marked with sudden onset of flare-ups. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include:
- Abdominal pain
- Chronic diarrhea
- Bloody diarrhea
- Rectal bleeding
- Unexpected weight loss
Gastrointestinal inflammation can be severe enough to cause digestive tract blockages or perforation, severe pain or fever. These are serious and potentially life-threatening medical conditions and requires immediate medical attention.
How is this type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) treated?
While there is no cure for Crohn’s disease, this condition can be managed with medications and lifestyle modifications. The type of medication our gastroenterologists will prescribe depends upon the severity and location of the inflammation within the gastrointestinal tract. Certain medications such as anti-inflammatories (e.g. corticosteroids), immune-modulators and antibiotics can help manage symptoms, reduce flare-ups and speed up remission.
Have questions about Crohn’s disease? Are you noticing any symptoms that have you concerned? If so, then it’s time you called GI Associates & GI Associates Endoscopy Center in Wausau, Stevens Point, Antigo, Rhinelander, Woodruff and Eagle River, WI, to help you determine whether you may have this inflammatory bowel disease or if it’s something else. Call 877-442-7762 today to schedule an appointment.
'Tis the season for smart eating
With the holidays approaching, you’ve no doubt thought about the wonders of the season: that first snowfall, the singing of children, and Mom’s green bean casserole. Or maybe Grandma’s famous stuffing, or Cousin Jim’s signature deep-fried turkey. The point is, it’s hard to think about the holiday season without thinking about the food and the fun that comes with it.
However, if you’re among the 60% of Americans who experience GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) at least once a year, the indulgences of the holidays might make the season particularly painful. Here are some tips for avoiding painful symptoms during the holidays.
Round Up the Usual Suspects
And dispose of them! We all know the primary culinary culprits for acid reflux and GERD, but a reminder is good now and then. Many of these appear frequently on holiday tables, so look out!
- Fatty foods
- Spicy foods
- Acidic foods, like tomatoes and citrus
- Coffee or any caffeinated beverage
- Carbonated beverages
Eat More Meals with Less
Eating five or six little meals is a much better idea than eating three big meals for a number of reasons. You feel fuller more of the time, you tend to eat less, there is less pressure on your esophagus, and, you guessed it, GERD is reduced.
Take a Stand
Or at the very least, don’t lie down. Although it’s the tempting thing to do—especially after a big meal like Thanksgiving, taking a nap is terrible for GERD symptoms. Keep upright and let your digestive system do its thing—without having to work against gravity. Your stomach and esophagus will thank you.
Go Easy on the Drinks
Alcohol can trigger heartburn and GERD because it relaxes the muscles in your esophagus, making conditions optimal for acid to sneak up your esophagus and wreak havoc. Consider the consequences and then ask yourself if that cocktail is really worth it.
As if you needed another reason to quit! Among a whole list of other bad things, smoking, like alcohol, may actually cause your muscles in your esophagus to relax, which can cause stomach acid to rise up and cause pain.
The holidays are usually when you can expect a few pounds to creep up on you, but be vigilant: taking steps to lose weight or at least not gain more weight will help relieve heartburn and GERD symptoms. Obesity is closely linked to not only heartburn but also many other serious health conditions, so take the holidays in stride and be ready to keep or achieve a healthy weight in 2018.
For more information on GERD and heartburn, plus tips on how to treat them, visit http://www.giassoc.org/heartburn.html.
GI Associates is proud to support the annual Crohn’s and Colitis walk
Dr. Eric Johnson is the Honorary Chair of Wausau’s “Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis” walk. The event will take place on October 7th. It’s a cause that means a lot to him as a gastroenterologist—and as a son.
“When I was growing up, my dad had a significant case of Crohn’s disease. It was hard to watch someone you idolize suffer like he did. It was one of the reasons I went into gastroenterology,” says Dr. Johnson.
Today, the outlook for those diagnosed with Crohn’s or colitis is much better. “Much better than even ten years ago,” says Dr. Johnson. “We’re getting closer to a cure, but we still have a ways to go.”
It’s Dr. Johnson’s fourth year of being involved with the walk.
The walk is a celebration of those fighting these diseases as well as an opportunity to educate people about Crohn’s and colitis.
“It’s a great event,” says Dr. Johnson. “It raises money and awareness for Crohn’s and colitis. We have foods that are Crohn’s and colitis-friendly, ‘heroes’ who come and speak about their experience with the disease, and lots of people who are there to support loved ones suffering from Crohn’s or colitis.”
Even more important than the money and awareness that the walk raises, says Dr. Johnson, is the sense of community it gives people living with Crohn’s and colitis.
“These are silent diseases,” says Dr. Johnson. “There hasn’t been a lot of access to education, historically, in this part of the state. This walk is changing that.”
What does a successful walk look like to Dr. Johnson? “Every year we’ve grown,” he says. “This year’s event will be successful if we reach even more people, raise more money for a cure, and show everyone living with Crohn’s and colitis that there is support for them.”
For more information on the walk, visit the website here.
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