Endoscopies are a great non-surgical tool used to assess the state of your gastrointestinal (aka digestive) tract. Capsule endoscopy is an especially useful tool in evaluating the small intestine, which cannot be accessed through an upper endoscopy or a colonoscopy. By swallowing a pill with a small camera inside, images of the small intestine are taken, revealing abnormalities. Dr. Jignesh Patel of Bay Area Gastroenterology in Trinity, Florida offers this diagnostic test along with several others.
What Types of Diseases Can Be Diagnosed With Capsule Endoscopy?
Capsule endoscopy is typically done to:
- Find the cause of unexplained gastrointestinal bleeding in the small intense
- Diagnose Cancer
- Screen for polyps
- Examine your esophagus for enlarged veins called varices
- Diagnose Celiac Disease
- Diagnose Crohn’s disease
- Diagnose other inflammatory bowel diseases
How Does It Work?
During capsule endoscopy, you will ingest a tiny wireless camera shaped like a smooth pill. The slippery texture makes the pill camera easy to swallow. Once it is inside your body, you will not be able to feel it as it slides through your digestive tract. You will be wearing a recording device around your waist for the entirety of the test, which occurs over the course of 8 hours.
Thousands of images are recorded onto the device. After the camera capsule travels through your digestive system, it will come out during a bowel movement and you will flush it down the toilet. The test is all done! Next, you will take the recording device back to Dr. Patel who will download the images onto his computer. Special software will piece the images together, offering a comprehensive look at what is going on in your GI tract.
How Do I Prepare?
As with a standard endoscopy or colonoscopy, you will not eat or drink for at least 12 hours prior to the test. You may need to take a laxative to clean out your system, allowing for clear images to be taken by the camera. You may also be advised not to take certain medications in the 12 hours leading up to the test. Your digestive tract must be as clean and clear as possible to get the best results.
You will take the capsule with water, but will then be advised not to drink or eat anything for the first 2 hours. After the 2 hour mark, you can start drinking water again. At the 4 hour mark, you may have a small snack. As the camera works its way through your system, you can go about your day as usual. Make sure to avoid strenuous exercise such as jumping, running, and bending. Skip the gym!
How Do I Know if I Need This Test Done?
There are a multitude of GI (gastrointestinal) exams that can be performed which is why it is important to have a highly trained specialist like Dr. Patel to determine which test is best for you. A general recommendation for preventive screening is to start getting colonoscopies done at age 45, and every 5-10 years from then on. If cancerous polyps are removed during your initial colonoscopy, your doctor will recommend you get checked every 3 years.
Certain symptoms will sound the alarm for conditions that may require capsule endoscopy. These symptoms include chronic abdominal pain, anemia (feeling tired and weak all the time), and unexplained weight loss. Also, if you are experiencing persistent digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, or blood in the stool, capsule endoscopy can identify why. Some life-threatening conditions can only be identified through a colonoscopy or endoscopy, so don’t underestimate the importance of these screenings!
A Deeper Look Into GI Conditions
Thanks to modern medical tests such as endoscopies and colonoscopies, conditions that were previously a mystery are now able to be identified. When gastrointestinal conditions are identified early in their development, they can often be successfully treated. For this reason, it is so important that you have a professional take a look at what is happening within your digestive tract before serious conditions develop.
Internal bleeding can be caused by a variety of conditions. In the small intestine, bleeding is sometimes caused by abnormal blood vessels. When these blood vessels become enlarged or weakened, they can leak blood. You may not have any symptoms and may not even see blood in your stool. However, intestinal bleeding can cause anemia as the body loses red blood cells that usually provide oxygen. Vascular abnormalities can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous).
Bleeding in the GI tract can also be caused by ulcers. Normally, the lining of the stomach and intestines protect them from stomach acid. However, when this protective barrier breaks down, stomach acid can erode away the walls of the stomach and intestines, causing ulcers. An ulcer is a sore that can cause pain and bleeding. Ulcers can be caused by bacterial infections, NSAIDs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen), or your stomach producing too much acid.
Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Inflammation of your digestive tract can lead to conditions such as Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. Crohn’s disease is characterized by inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract. Ulcerative Colitis occurs in the large intestine and rectum when inflammation and ulcers are present in the intestinal lining. Both of these conditions can result in symptoms such as:
- Unintended weight loss
- Abdominal cramping and pain
- Bloody Stool
- Reduction in appetite
- Mouth sores
- Joint pain
Cancers in the GI tract occur when cells in the lining of the esophagus, stomach, intestines, rectum, or anus mutate and begin to grow. Tumors can form and cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and other organs if the cancer is not treated in time. Cancer can form in all parts of the gastrointestinal tract and symptoms include:
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea and/or constipation on a regular basis
- Blood in your stool (which can make stool look black)
- Abdominal pain and/or cramping
- Feeling tired and weak
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Digestive problems
- Difficulty swallowing
- Jaundice (when the eyes and skin turn yellow)
Polyps are due to abnormal cell growth and can present as small, flat bumps. Sometimes they can be raised, causing them to look more like mushrooms with a stem and a cap. They can be found in the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and rectum, although they are most common in the large intestine.
Polyps in the colon appear in 15-20% of the adult population in America. They are usually benign (non-cancerous) but due to the nature of the abnormal cell growth present in the polyp, they can turn into malignant (cancerous) growths over time. By getting a colonoscopy or endoscopy, polyps can be identified and removed before they turn to cancer.
Celiac disease is a severe autoimmune disease that is hereditary. When people with this condition eat gluten (which is a protein found in rye, barley, and wheat), their immune system attacks their small intestine. This attack of the small intestine by the body’s own immune system damages the villi which are responsible for nutrient absorption. Without these villi intact, nutrient deficiencies occur. People with celiac disease are four times more likely to develop cancer in the small intestine.
Receiving a capsule endoscopy is an excellent way to find out if you have celiac disease and how far your condition has progressed. Untreated celiac disease can lead to MS (multiple sclerosis), heart disease, osteoporosis, and neurological conditions just to name a few. However, if celiac disease is identified, you will be able to treat your symptoms by adhering to a gluten-free diet which will prevent further damage to the small intestine.
A Convenient Test With Life Saving Results
Unlike an upper GI endoscopy or a colonoscopy, a capsule endoscopy provides images of the small intestine. These images can identify ulcers, inflammation, tumors, and bleeding in the small intestine, stomach, and esophagus. Most people find it to be a comfortable and convenient test since they can go about their day as usual after ingesting the camera capsule. This test does not involve being put under anesthesia and is not painful or uncomfortable.
Dr. Jignesh Patel is board certified in both internal medicine and gastroenterology. He has been practicing as a gastroenterologist for over 10 years and is highly skilled in his specialty. His primary goal is to provide his patients with compassionate and quality care. Experience the life-saving benefits of working with Dr. Patel by calling us to set up your first appointment with Bay Area Gastroenterology in Trinity, FL today!