An astounding 20% of Americans have heartburn that’s frequent and severe enough for a gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) diagnosis. And once you have GERD, you’re at risk of complications that may need surgery. The board-certified gastroenterologists at Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division encourage people with heartburn to schedule an evaluation so they can get early treatment and prevent it from progressing to GERD. If you have heartburn twice a week, call the office in Fishkill, Poughkeepsie, or Highland, New York, or book an appointment online today.
Heartburn refers to the burning pain you feel in the middle of your chest when gastric acid comes out of your stomach and goes up into the esophagus. In severe cases, the acid may reach your throat and cause a bitter taste.
You have a ring of muscle where your esophagus meets your stomach. This muscle, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), normally opens to let foods and beverages go into your stomach. Then it tightens to keep everything inside.
When the LES weakens or relaxes when it should stay closed, the contents in your stomach regurgitate into the esophagus.
If you have two or more bouts of heartburn every week, you may have a bigger problem called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition to heartburn and chest pain, GERD causes symptoms such as:
If you have frequent heartburn, getting early treatment is important. Without treatment, GERD damages the esophagus, causing esophageal narrowing and precancerous changes in the esophageal lining, a condition called Barrett’s esophagus.
Heartburn is usually diagnosed by evaluating your symptoms or performing an endoscopy to examine the health of your esophagus. To determine if you have GERD, your provider recommends pH testing to measure how much stomach acid gets into your esophagus.
Your pH monitoring test uses the Bravo™ reflux capsule. Your provider simply attaches a tiny capsule to your esophagus. Over the next 24 to 48 hours, the capsule measures the pH levels, sending the information to a small receiver that you wear on a belt.
Treatment for heartburn includes:
Your provider talks about avoiding foods that trigger acid reflux and losing weight if needed. You can also prevent or minimize heartburn by sitting up for several hours after eating and raising the head of your bed.
Your provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications, depending on the severity of your heartburn. The medications used to treat heartburn include antacids and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). Antacids neutralize stomach acid, while PPIs improve heartburn by reducing the amount of acid produced by your stomach.
To get comprehensive care for heartburn, call Northern Medical Group Gastroenterology Division, or book an appointment online today.