Prof. Ami Sperber primary specialization is in the diagnosis and treatment of the Functional Disorders of the Digestive Tract, an area in which he is recognized internationally. He treats patients with complex problems, conducts global research, and is invited to lecture around the world.

What are functional disorders?

Some digestive tract diseases are chronic. Chronic diseases, in any body system, persist over time and become an integral part of the patient’s life. There are many examples of chronic diseases including joint disease, diabetes, hypertension, and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis). These diseases can be treated and brought under control, some wax and wane in intensity, but none have a complete cure.

The functional disorders of the digestive tract, such as the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), belong to this group of chronic illness. The most common are chronic abdominal pain, chronic abdominal bloating, chronic heartburn, nausea and vomiting). These disorders have double significance:

  1. They are the most common digestive tract disorders.
  2. They cause the patient severe suffering, impair function (work, social, home, relationships) and lead to poor quality of life.

These disorders stem from problems in function, not structure (anatomy). For example, here could be disrupted motility leading to an irregular bowel habit (diarrhea, constipation, or alternating diarrhea and constipation) and/or a low threshold for pain leading to chronic abdominal pain. It is important to understand that no routine medical tests check for functional disorders, so all the tests are normal, and the patient may be perceived by doctors as suffering from a psychological problem. Patients often hear that “there is nothing wrong with you” or that “its all in your head.” The outcome is that the patient is frustrated, does not understand what is happening, and sees no help on the horizon. The doctors also feel frustration and a lack of confidence in their ability to cope with the situation. Thus, there is a need for specialists who do know how to care for patients with these disorders.

Because of the complexity of treatment, many gastroenterologists prefer not to treat patients with functional disorders. In contrast, Prof. Sperber views the treatment of these patients as challenging and effective.

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