Ask the Expert: Gastroenterology
ABOUT THE EXPERT
Dr. Meade Edmunds | Edmunds Gastroenterology
Meade Edmunds, MD, is a leading gastroenterologist and founder of Edmunds Gastroenterology in Knoxville. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, Edmunds pursued an internship at the University of Rochester in New York, later completing a fellowship.
Edmunds is currently a member of the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, American College of Gastroenterology, and American Gastroenterological Association, keeping him up-to-date on all of the latest procedures, techniques, and technology in his field.
Edmunds believes in delivering high quality care and also in creating a safe and compassionate environment for every patient. His ability and willingness to thoroughly explain every aspect of gastrointestinal health is widely praised by his former patients, and no matter the diagnosis, he empowers the men and women he treats to make careful and considered decisions about their health.
How has COVID-19 impacted our gastrointestinal health?
I’m seeing a lot of reflux and abdominal pain, which could very well be associated with COVID-19 stress. Hormonal changes due to stress will cause an increase in acid production, which can then lead to other problems such as acid reflux. Most people don’t know that acid reflux can then lead to a potentially pre-cancerous condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus, a condition that can only be diagnosed with an upper endoscopy. That’s why individuals who suffer from reflux, Caucasian males in particular, should consider this procedure.
Can you walk through what happens when a person develops Barrett’s esophagus?
Individuals suffer from reflux and then, when they no longer do, they assume that they’re “cured.” This reduction in symptoms could be a sign of Barrett’s, due to the fact Barrett’s typically does not present with symptoms. Patients with chronic reflux who later develop Barrett’s actually lose their symptoms of reflux and feel better because the new cells lining the esophagus are not as sensitive to acid as the original esophageal lining.
how important are colonoscopy screenings?
Let me begin by saying that colon cancer has been—and unfortunately continues to be—one of the leading causes of cancer deaths. Sadly, too, studies show that it is now occurring at an earlier age. We used to recommend a first screening at age 50. Now, we recommend age 45. Earlier screenings are particularly important for our African American patients, who are more likely to experience colon issues. Another consideration is, of course, family history.
what frequency do you recommend getting a colonoscopy?
Anyone with a family member who has tested positive for polyps should consider their first screening earlier; ideally, about five years prior to that family member’s positive diagnosis. Beyond that first screening, if a colonoscopy doesn’t find adenomas or cancer and you don’t have risk factors, your next test should be in 10 years. If one or two small, low-risk adenomas are removed, the exam should be repeated in five to 10 years. Routine checks usually aren’t needed after age 75.