Posted on: 25 April 2019
Heartburn is a common condition that can be brought on by eating certain foods, eating too much, or eating right before you go to bed. Occasional heartburn isn't necessarily something to worry about, but when you have frequent episodes, you might have GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. You should consider seeing a doctor when you have frequent heartburn or think you might have GERD because this condition can have some serious complications if it goes untreated. These are some symptoms of GERD and how your gastroenterologist might treat this condition.
Symptoms You Might Experience With GERD
The primary symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease is heartburn. Sometimes the pain from the heartburn is so severe that you might think you're having a heart attack. This pain is caused by stomach acid backing up into your esophagus. If the acid affects your lungs, you might develop a chronic cough. You could also develop a sore throat or a raspy voice. GERD is often worse at night and that can interfere with your sleep and cause additional health problems.
When GERD isn't treated, you could develop additional symptoms such as ulcers in your esophagus, bleeding, trouble swallowing, and precancerous changes to your esophagus.
Treatments Your Gastroenterologist Might Recommend
One of the first steps for treating GERD is to make lifestyle changes. You might need to lose weight so excess fat doesn't crowd your stomach and esophagus. Sleeping with a foam wedge under your mattress might help too as this keeps you in an elevated position at night so acid can't back up as easily. Your doctor will probably give you a list of foods to avoid. Some foods increase stomach acid, and others can weaken the sphincter that keeps acid in your stomach. You may also be instructed to give up alcohol and cigarettes since both of these can make GERD worse.
There are several types of over-the-counter medications you can try for heartburn. Your doctor might want you to try these first to see if they control your symptoms. When combined with lifestyle changes, these medications may get your GERD symptoms under control. Medications for heartburn and GERD work in different ways. Some reduce or block acid production, while others make the acid weaker. If these medications don't help, your gastroenterologist may give you prescription medications next. These also affect acid production, but they are stronger than the medicines you can buy off the shelf. One prescription medication your doctor might try increases the muscle strength of the esophageal sphincter. Some GERD medications can even help your esophagus heal.
If prescription medications don't help, then your doctor might think about surgery. One type of surgery tightens the esophageal sphincter and another type places magnetic beads around the lower esophagus to help close it off and prevent reflux while still allowing food to pass easily.Share