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    Frequently Asked Questions About Digestive Diseases

    1. What Are Hemorrhoids and How Can I Prevent Them?

    Hemorrhoids are groups of swollen and inflamed veins in the tissue inside your bottom, specifically the anus and lower rectum. These blood vessels can burst and cause bleeding. You might see blood on toilet paper or in the toilet, and feel pain or itching. It might happen if you strain during a bowel movement. The best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep your stools soft so you can pass them easily without straining. Eat a high-fiber diet and drink plenty of fluids each day.

    It’s a good idea to let your doctor know if you have bleeding from your bottom or blood in your stools. These can be a symptoms of colon cancer, or polyps that could become cancer. Your doctor may want to use a lighted tube to check inside your rectum (called an anoscopy), your lower colon (sigmoidoscopy), or your entire colon (colonoscopy).

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    2. What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

    When you swallow, food passes down your throat and through your esophagus to your stomach. A muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter controls the opening to your stomach and stays tightly closed except when you swallow food. When it doesn’t close, the acid in your stomach can splash back up into your esophagus. This backward movement is called reflux. When it happens, you might feel burning inside, commonly known as heartburn.

    Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is when reflux happens more than twice a week and often enough to affect your daily life or damage your esophagus.

    3. What Is Laparoscopic Antireflux Surgery?

    Doctors use this operation, also called fundoplication, to create a better valve at the bottom of the esophagus to protect it from stomach acid. You might get this operation if you’ve tried taking medications to treat GERD, but they haven’t helped.

    A surgeon will make several small (usually 5- to 10-millimeter) cuts in your belly. Then she’ll use a thin, lighted tube, called a laparoscope, to look inside the cuts at your organs. The scope sends a picture of your insides to a monitor, which guides the surgeon during the operation.

    Laparoscopic antireflux surgery is best for people who haven’t had surgery on their belly before, those who’ve had their stomach push through their diaphragm (called hiatal hernias) and those who have most of their reflux symptoms when they’re lying down.

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