Common Digestive Conditions

Red-flag Symptoms

There are some symptoms that you should always mention to your GP / Family Doctor and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to discuss them. We call these ‘red-flag’ symptoms, as they should never be ignored:

  • Difficulty swallowing – sense of food sticking in your chest (your gullet/oesophagus) as it goes down.
  • Significant change in bowel function – this can happen for lots of reasons and by talking to you, your doctor will have a good idea if it needs further investigation.
  • Waking up at night with diarrhoea and needing the toilet – this might happen if you have a bout of gastroenteritis, but otherwise it’s not normal, and almost never happens in someone who has IBS. If you think you’ve IBS and this is happening sometimes, tell your GP, as there might be something else going on e.g. Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis.
  • Blood in your bowel motions / stools – most of the time when someone passes bright red blood in bowel motions, it’s caused by a haemorrhoid (pile) or a little tear (fissure) around the anus. But there are other causes, and you should mention it to your doctor.
  • Unexplained weight loss – while not exactly a gut symptom, you should also mention this to your doctor as it should always be investigated.
  • Mouth ulcers – if you have gut symptoms and also find that you’re getting a lot of mouth ulcers, while not serious, you should mention it, as these are common in people who suffer with coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis.

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