Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Digestive Diseases and Endoscopy

Endoscopy is a nonsurgical procedure used to examine a person's digestive tract. Using an endoscope, a flexible tube with a light and camera attached to it, your doctor can view pictures of your digestive tract on a color TV monitor.

During an upper endoscopy, an endoscope is easily passed through the mouth and throat and into the esophagus, allowing the doctor to view the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine.

Recommended Related to Digestive Disorders

Diarrhea and Lactose Intolerance: When Dairy Is the Problem

Milk may do a body good, but not if you’re one of 30 million to 50 million people who suffers from lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance results from an inability to digest the natural sugar (lactose) found in milk and milk products. Lactose intolerance symptoms can include bloating, diarrhea, gas, and cramping. But there are ways to manage lactose intolerance while reaping the nutritional benefits of dairy products.

Read the Diarrhea and Lactose Intolerance: When Dairy Is the Problem article > >

Similarly, endoscopes can be passed into the large intestine (colon) through the rectum to examine this area of the intestine. This procedure is called sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy depending on how far up the colon is examined.

A special form of endoscopy called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreaticography, or ERCP, allows pictures of the pancreas, gallbladder, and related structures to be taken.

Endoscopic ultrasound or EUS combines upper endoscopy and ultrasound examination to obtain images and information about various parts of the digestive tract.

Why Do I Need an Endoscopy?

Doctors will often recommend endoscopy to evaluate:

In addition, your doctor may use an endoscope to take a biopsy (removal of tissue) to look for the presence of disease.

Endoscopy may also be used to treat a digestive tract problem. For example, the endoscope might not only detect active bleeding from an ulcer, but devices can be passed through the endoscope that can stop the bleeding. In the colon, polyps can be removed through the scope to prevent the development of colon cancer.

Also, using ERCP, gallstones that have passed outside the gallbladder and into the bile duct can often be removed.

Is Endoscopy Safe?

Overall, endoscopy is very safe; however, the procedure does have a few potential complications, which may include:

  • Perforation (tear in the gut wall)
  • Reaction to sedation
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Pancreatitis as a result of ERCP

Who Performs Endoscopy?

Your internist or family doctor may perform sigmoidoscopy in their office. However, all of the other endoscopy procedures are usually performed by gastroenterology specialists (gastroenterologists). Other specialists such as gastrointestinal surgeons also can perform many of these procedures.

Today on WebMD

man holding his stomach
Get the facts on common problems.
blueberries in a palm
Best and worst foods.
woman shopping
Learn what foods to avoid.
fresh and dried plums
Will it help constipation?
top foods for probiotics
couple eating at cafe
sick child
Woman blowing bubble gum

Send yourself a link to download the app.

Loading ...

Please wait...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Woman with crohns in pain
Woman with stomach pain
diet for diverticulitis
what causes diarrhea