Digestive System Pathologies: Common Diseases and Disorders 

Gall stones, and example of a digestive pathologyDiseases and disorders of the digestive system can involve infection or damage to organs and other tissues and structures. They may also affect actions of the digestive system, such as the sealing of the esophagus from stomach acids or the free flow of fluids through the bile ducts. Symptoms can arise during digestion or may be chronic.

Read on to learn about five of the most common diseases and disorders.

1. Gallstones Form When Substances in the Bile Harden  

Click to play an animation describing gallstones

Gallstones are pieces of solid material that can form from stored bile in the gall bladder. They range from tiny specks to the size of golf balls. During digestion, gallstones can block the flow of fluid through the bile ducts. Signs of a gallstone attack include nausea, vomiting, or pain in the abdomen, back, or just under the right arm.

2. Straining to Have a Bowel Movement Can Cause Hemorrhoids 

A video depicting hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are swollen, inflamed veins around the anus or lower rectum. Straining for bowel movements can cause hemorrhoids. Pregnancy, diarrhea, and chronic constipation are contributing factors. They can develop under the skin around the anus (as external hemorrhoids) or inside the anus (as internal hemorrhoids). Further straining or irritation when passing stool can damage a hemorrhoid's surface and cause it to bleed.  

3. Ulcerative Colitis Causes Inflammation and Sores in the Colon and Rectum 

Click to view an animation of ulcerative collitis

Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects the large intestine. It causes inflammation and sores (ulcers) in the innermost lining of the colon and rectum. This leads most often to abdominal pain or to diarrhea with blood and pus.  Ulcerative colitis is a chronic condition characterized by alternating periods of flare-up and remission, when the symptoms of the disease disappear.  

4. GERD is a Common Diagnosis of Recurring Heartburn 

Click to play an animation of Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic disease of the digestive system. GERD usually occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle at the end of the esophagus, does not close properly. This allows stomach acid to leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus and irritate it. Symptoms include heartburn, regurgitation, and the taste of stomach fluid in the back of the mouth.

5. Diverticulosis Occurs When Pouches Form in the Large Intestine. Diverticulitis Is the Inflammation or Infection of These Pouches 

Play an animated depiction of diverticulitis

Diverticulosis occurs when small pouches form in the wall of the large intestine. Most people with diverticulosis don't have symptoms. However, if feces get trapped in the pouches and bacteria grow, inflammation and infection result. This is called diverticulitis. Most often it causes abdominal pain. Other symptoms include fever, nausea, and constipation.


External Resources

Information from the Digestive Disease Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston.

A description of digestive system diseases from Des Moines University‚Äôs online medical terminology course.