Digestive disorders encompass a wide array of conditions that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These disorders vary in severity, from minor annoyances (such as mild heartburn) to potentially life-threatening illnesses (such as a perforated ulcer).
Here are some of the more common digestive disorders:
GastroEsophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes at the wrong times, allowing acid from the stomach to enter the esophagus. One possible cause of GERD is a hiatal hernia—a protrusion of this same sphincter and the upper portion of the stomach into the chest cavity.
Gastritis and Gastric Ulcers
Gastritis (the inflammation of the stomach lining) and gastric ulcers (breaks or open sores in the lining) are most commonly caused by infections or the use of medications.
Ulcers can also occur in the duodenum when stones that form in the gallbladder keep bile out.
Chron’s disease is an inflammatory disorder that primarily affects the small intestine. It may also damage the large intestine and any other part of the digestive system.
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory disease that affects only the large intestine. Diarrhea occurs when waste products move through the large intestine too quickly, while constipation results when the waste products movement is too slow.
Diverticulitis is a condition where diverticula (small pouches) can bulge outward through weak spots in the wall of the large intestine. It is the infection or inflammation of diverticula.
Hemorrhoids are clusters of swollen veins, and are thought to result from increased pressure in the veins of the rectum and/or anus.
Reference: Recognising Common Digestive Disorders, p. 144 Readers Digest, September 2008