Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Treatment Specialist Q&A
Do you have gastroesophageal reflux? Know the symptoms and get treatment today at Diamond Gastroenterology. Call us today or visit us online to book an appointment. We serve patients from Oak Park, IL and surrounding areas.
Table of Contents:
What causes gastroesophageal reflux disease?
What are the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease?
What is the treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease?
Is gastroesophageal reflux disease serious?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition in which the stomach acid flows out of the stomach and back up into the esophagus which is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD for short, causes the lining of the esophagus to become irritated as a result of the backwash, or acid reflux.
While acid reflux is commonly experienced by many people once in a while, GERD is a condition in which people experience mild acid reflux a minimum of twice a week, or a moderate to severe case of acid reflex on a weekly basis at miniumum. Acid reflux occurs when the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus doesn’t properly close after allowing food or liquid to pass through it into the stomach, resulting in the backwash of liquid into the esophagus. The sphincter may be weak or experience abnormal relaxations that prevent it from being able to properly close.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease has many different symptoms that patients can experience. The most common symptoms include heartburn, identified by a burning sensation in the chest, typically after eating, as well as chest pain, difficulty swallowing, feeling like there is a lump in the throat and regurgitation of sour-tasting liquid or food. Symptoms can be worse at night, particularly heartburn.
People who experience acid reflux at night may have additional symptoms such as laryngitis, disrupted sleep, chronic cough and worsening or newly developed asthma. In most cases, symptoms of GERD can be treated using over-the-counter medications for heartburn. If you are taking heartburn medications more than twice a week or your GERD symptoms are happening frequently or are severe, it is a good idea to make an appointment with your primary care physician or one of the doctors at Diamond Gastroenterology. If you are experiencing chest pain, seek immediate medical care, especially if it is accompanied by shortness of breath or pain in the jaw or arm. While chest pain can be a symptom of GERD, it can also be a sign of a heart attack.
While gastroesophageal reflux disease can be uncomfortable, the good news is that it is treatable. Your doctor will most likely suggest trying over-the-counter medications and modifications to your lifestyle to help ease the symptoms. However, if those don’t work and you don’t experience relief within the first few weeks, your doctor may want to take a more aggressive approach with prescription medication, or in severe cases, surgery. Medications that can provide relief and are available without a prescription include antacids to provide quick relief, H-2-receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors.
Examples of antacids include Tums, Rolaids and Mylanta. They aren’t able to heal the inflamed esophagus, however. H-2-receptor blockers can be used to reduce the production of acid in the stomach and provide longer lasting relief than antacids. Proton pump inhibitors block acid production, giving the esophagus time to heal. Medications available through your doctor that can provide relief are, prescription strength H-2-receptor blockers, prescription strength proton pump inhibitors and medication that is able to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter. If none of these medication avenues work, your doctor may recommend surgery.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can cause chronic inflammation in the esophagus if left untreated. This can lead to more serious complications that can make it difficult to swallow, or increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
Some of the conditions GERD can lead to are:
– Esophageal stricture, which is a narrowing of the esophagus. This is the result of the formation of scar tissue on the lower esophagus from the presence of stomach acid. When this happens, the pathway for food to pass through is narrowed, which can cause problems with swallowing.
– Esophageal ulcer, which is an open sore along the esophagus. As the stomach acid passes back through the esophagus, it can wear away the tissue, causing open sores to form. Esophageal ulcers can cause pain and bleeding, as well as making it difficult to swallow.
– Barrett’s esophagus, which are precancerous changes that happen to the esophagus. The tissue that lines the lower esophagus can change as a result of damage from the stomach acid, which increases the risk of developing esophageal cancer.
While GERD isn’t life-threatening if left untreated, it can cause serious complications and lead to more serious conditions. If you are experiencing acid reflux and symptoms of GERD, the team at Diamond Gastroenterology can provide you with a proper diagnosis and get you on a treatment plan to minimize your symptoms. We serve patients from Oak Park IL, River Forest IL, Cicero IL, River Grove IL, Forest Park IL, Berwyn IL, Melrose Park IL and Broadview IL.