Are you dealing with recurring bouts of heartburn and acid reflux? If so, you could have a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD); however, since the symptoms of heartburn can also be indicative of more serious, cardiac-related conditions, it’s also important that you see a doctor right away to rule out other potentially life-threatening health problems. If heartburn has become commonplace, it’s time to consult our gastrointestinal team to find out how to safely and more effectively alleviate your symptoms.
What is GERD?
If you deal with acid reflux and heartburn two or more times a week then gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) could be to blame. This chronic condition causes stomach acid to flow back up into the throat, leading to irritation of the lining of the esophagus. If left untreated, GERD can lead to serious inflammation, narrowing of the esophagus or pre-cancerous conditions (known as Barrett’s esophagus).
What are the symptoms?
The most common signs of GERD include,
- Regurgitation (when acid or food come back up from the stomach into the esophagus)
- A persistent or recurring sore throat
- Hoarseness or other vocal changes
- Gum inflammation
- Bad breath
- Trouble swallowing
How is GERD diagnosed?
So, you’re experiencing symptoms of GERD…what should you do? It’s important that you visit our gastroenterology team so we can determine whether your symptoms are caused by GERD. There are several tests that we may need to perform in order to diagnose you with GERD. These diagnostic tests include an X-ray and an endoscopy (a procedure that allows us to look at the lining of the esophagus and stomach).
I have GERD. Now what?
Most treatment plans include a combination of medication and lifestyle changes to better manage symptoms. Lifestyle changes may include,
- Losing excess weight
- Quitting smoking
- Avoiding alcohol and caffeine
- Avoiding spicy, greasy or fatty foods
- Keeping your head elevated as you sleep
- Eating smaller meals and avoiding eating about 3 hours before going to bed
- Limiting the size of your meals
There are over the counter and prescription medications that can be used to alleviate acid reflux. Of course, over the counter medications are not to be used for long periods of time. In this case, your gastroenterologist may prescribe a proton pump inhibitor to help block the production of acid in the stomach, which will give the esophagus time to heal.
If you are dealing with symptoms of GERD, it’s important that you see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible for treatment. Call Lehigh Gastroenterology Associates today at (610) 379-0443 to schedule an appointment.