With the plethora of subspecialties in medicine, patients frequently experience confusion about what type of doctor to visit for specific problems. As a gastroenterologist, I help patients with an array of conditions involving the gastrointestinal tract, including all of the organs in the digestive system. With such a wide scope, gastroenterologists provide care for common conditions such as acid reflux, ulcers, gallbladder disease, irritable bowel syndrome, nutrient malabsorption, and many others.
Gastroenterologists are medical doctors who have completed a four-year medical degree, a three-year internal medicine residency, and a gastroenterology fellowship. While learning diagnosis and treatment, gastroenterologists also receive training dedicated to endoscopy, which involves employing lighted tubes to see inside the intestinal tract.
Your general practitioner may refer you to a gastroenterologist, and in many cases, you may be able to self-refer as well. Nearly all people visit a gastroenterologist at some point in their lives because some of the critical functions doctors in this specialty perform include sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy, which physicians recommend to detect colorectal cancer beginning at the age of 50.
About the author: Dr. Robert M. Webman has practiced as a gastroenterologist for more than 25 years. Along with his work at his private practice, Dr. Webman also serves as an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology.