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Gastrointestinal Disorders

Medically reviewed by L. Anderson, PharmD. Last Updated on Apr 9, 2013.

Gastrointestinal, or stomach disorders are comprised of a variety of ailments that have many different types of symptoms. The gastrointestinal tract, also known as the GI tract or gut, starts at the esophagus, and includes the stomach, small intestine (also known as the duodenum), large intestine (also known as the colon), rectum, and anus. Stomach disorders occur frequently in the general population and may lead to severe symptoms. Most GI disorders can be successfully treated with medications or surgery. Information is available about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options for common stomach disorders.

  • Crohn’s Disease: Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which can occur anywhere in the GI tract. It often occurs in the intestinal area, and can result in stomach pain, watery diarrhea and fatigue. Drug treatments may include aminosalicylates, corticosteroids and immunomodulators.
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD or heartburn): GERD (also known as acid reflux disease or heartburn) occurs when food or liquid travels from the stomach back up into the esophagus (the tube that travels from the mouth to the stomach). This partially digested material is usually acidic and can irritate the esophagus, often causing a burning sensation and other symptoms. The primary symptoms with GERD are regurgitation, heartburn, chest pain and nausea. If GERD is not treated, it can permanently damage the lining of the esophagus.
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS): IBS occurs in the lower part of the intestinal tract, and is characterized by abdominal cramping with alternating diarrhea and constipation, although one may be more common than the other. Symptoms of IBS may be worsened by emotional stress. IBS is also known as spastic colon, functional colitis, and irritable colon.
  • Peptic Ulcer Disease (PUD): Peptic ulcers occur in the GI tract when gastric (stomach) acid is exposed to the lining of the stomach or the small intestine. Ulcers that occur in the stomach are called gastric ulcers, and those that arise in the small intestine are called duodenal ulcers. Peptic ulcers are commonly caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori that lives in the acid contents of the stomach. Certain medications, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen can increase the risk for a peptic ulcer. Peptic ulcers may be treated with several different types of medicines, including antibiotics, acid blockers (H2-blockers), and proton pump inhibitors.

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