If you’re going through so many antacid tablets each week that they are a regular item on your grocery list, it’s time to uncover the real problem. You may have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. If left untreated, this condition can lead to cancer of the esophagus. Here is what you need know about GERD and how to find the right help.
More Than Just a Reaction to Spicy Food
Heartburn is one of the symptoms of GERD, but it’s much more than that.
A small muscle at the end of your esophagus opens to allow food to enter your stomach. It then closes to prevent the stomach contents from coming back up into the esophagus. If the muscular valve fails to close, stomach acid can leak into the esophagus and all the way up into your throat. This acid irritates the tissue lining, causing that burning feeling. In severe cases, the valve doesn’t close at all, so every meal can result in this leaking of stomach acid.
Long Term Effects of GERD
As the condition continues, the stomach acid eats away at the lining of the esophagus. This causes the development of ulcers and bleeding. Swallowing may become difficult. Antacids may give some relief but eventually will be ineffective. You’ll have difficulty being comfortable either sitting or standing. The damaged tissue in the esophagus can produce cancer cells if the irritation continues.
Getting Help for GERD
You can go to a family physician, but they will refer you to a specialist for a complete examination. Physician owned specialty hospitals and clinics offer gastroenterologists who are experienced working with all stages of GERD. These facilities have the latest in endoscopic technology to look into your esophagus and evaluate the extent of the damage.
These doctors will do X-rays and blood tests to check for the presence of ulcers. They will examine the muscular valve through an endoscope inserted into the esophagus. Once they understand the severity of the esophageal damage, they will recommend one or more of the following treatments:
- Changes in diet to reduce the GERD symptoms – Avoiding acidic foods, coffee, tea and alcohol will prevent the production of excess stomach acid.
- Lifestyle changes – Eating smaller portions, drinking plenty of water with meals and eating several hours before you go to bed will decrease the symptoms.
- Prescription antacids – Some of these you’ll take before meals to reduce the amount of stomach acid produced.
- Surgery to repair the valve – If the muscular valve is damaged, surgery can be done to repair or replace it.
Understanding the seriousness of GERD is the first step. Finding the right help in a gastroenterology clinic is the next. Don’t allow this condition to become serious enough to require surgery. Contact a specialty hospital such as Nueterra for more information.