If you are under 50 you probably have not thought about visiting a gastroenterologist, and that is understandable. A large number of gastrointestinal disorders affect those over 50, and like colonoscopies, many of the screening procedures are also for those 50 and over.
Does that mean that you shouldn’t consult a gastroenterologist?
There are gastrointestinal disorders that affect the younger population. Although you might think they are not “severe,” if not treated they can lead to more serious conditions. Below we break down some of the disorders that commonly affect those under 50, plus a few things to keep in mind as you get older.
It is true that heartburn and acid reflux are common occurrences. When heartburn occurs more than 2 times a week for a few weeks, it may be a more serious condition called gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).
If left untreated, it may cause:
- Esophagitis – inflammation of the esophagus
- Esophageal stricture – the narrowing of the esophagus, which can lead to problems swallowing
- Respiratory problems
- Barrett’s esophagus – the replacement of esophagus lining with that of your intestine
- Cancer of the esophagus
For more information, you can download our brochure on GERD by clicking HERE
Although being one of the most diagnosed GI conditions, only 15% of people seek treatment. IBS or Irritable Bowel Syndrome is when your gut is more sensitive and these triggers change how the muscles in the bowel contract. This leads to repeated pain in the abdomen, changes in bowel movements (such as diarrhea, constipation, or a combination of both), bloating, and gas. Although IBS is not curable, a gastroenterologist can help you manage your symptoms to have more “good days” than “bad days.”
If you want more information on IBS, you can download our brochure by clicking HERE
GI needs for those under 50 years of age
Colonoscopies are not just for those 50 and over
Although it is recommended to have your first screening colonoscopy at age 50, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has lowered the screening age to 45 for those of average risk. Keep in mind, not all insurances cover this new guideline. So if you are of average risk and are interested in getting your colonoscopy earlier, confirm with your insurance company before submitting to the procedure.
Additionally, this does NOT apply to people who have a family history of colon cancer. If an immediate family member (father, mother, siblings, and/or children) has been diagnosed with colon cancer and even polyps, it is recommended that you begin your screening exams 10 YEARS BEFORE their colon cancer diagnosis. This means that if, for example, a parent was diagnosed at age 55 you should begin getting screened at least by age 45. So it is of utmost importance to start getting your family’s medical history.
It might be an awkward conversation, but it can save your life!
For more information on the increase of colon cancer detection in the younger population, read the following article by the American Cancer Society (ACS): Colorectal Cancer Death Rates Rising In Younger People
You will not be young forever!
Even though the thought might be depressing, what you do NOW can greatly impact your gastrointestinal needs in the future. Eating better, staying active, and stopping bad habits such as smoking, can greatly decrease your need to see a gastroenterologist.
Digestive Health Specialists, PA is here to help if you, or someone you know, would like more information, or if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and would like further evaluation. To make an appointment, feel free to give us a call at 336-768-6211.