Common digestive problems can be identified by the symptoms they cause. According to the National Institutes of Health, individuals are typically alerted to digestive problems by bleeding, heartburn, diarrhea, abdominal pain and constipation.
Digestive problems may involve disorders within the entire digestive tract, but certain symptoms can help a doctor pinpoint the location and type of problem, which can range from gastroesophageal disease to irritable bowel. Heartburn, particularly when lying down at night, may indicate GERD, a condition where the acidic contents of the stomach are regurgitated backward into the esophagus. Eating spicy foods or drinking alcohol are common causes. Over time, this may lead to the formation of ulcers, which are treatable with medication. Stomach ulcers are diagnosed with tests such as an upper G.I.
Alternating constipation and diarrhea combined with abdominal pain may point to irritable bowel syndrome. This common disorder is usually diagnosed symptomatically, but older individuals may need tests to substantiate the diagnosis. Certain blood tests and stool analysis may be done.
Bleeding is differentiated by the color of the blood. Bright red blood in or on the stool may point to hemorrhoids, while dark stools usually indicate upper gastrointestinal tract bleeding such as that which occurs with an ulcer. Further tests are usually done to establish a specific diagnosis.
Individuals experiencing digestive problems benefit from noting what symptoms they experience and when and how frequently the symptoms occur. Taking this information to a physician may allow for a diagnosis and subsequent treatment.