Acid Reflux/GERD

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Millions of Americans experience the irritating pain and discomfort associated with acid reflux – sometimes described as heartburn. When symptoms are minimal and occur infrequently, food and diet adjustments and over-the-counter medications are often effective. Recurring heartburn that impacts your life presents a different challenge and is something you should discuss with your provider. If you need help finding a primary care provider, call (812) 801-8995.

What is Acid Reflux (heartburn)?

Heartburn is a common symptom of acid reflux and often creates a burning sensation in your chest or throat that happens when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, the tube that connects your mouth and stomach. There is a muscle between the stomach and esophagus that usually prevents acid backup, but if the muscle is weak, acid may go the wrong way. In some instances, heartburn discomfort is strong enough to be mistaken for a heart attack.

What if I have frequent Acid Reflux?

Acid reflux that occurs frequently may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It could also be caused a hiatal hernia or other issue in the digestive process. As acid reflux can have many underlying causes, it’s important to figure out the root cause of your particular issue. In addition to discussing your dietary habits and family history, some additional testing may be necessary.

Why managing GERD is important

Untreated GERD may cause symptoms such as hoarseness, sore throat, trouble swallowing, dry cough and bad breath. When you have GERD, the cells in the esophagus are regularly irritated by stomach acid. Over time, this may cause the cells that are supposed to line the esophagus to be replaced with cells similar to those that line the small intestine. This condition is called Barrett’s esophagus. Once the cells in your esophagus have changed, you are at risk for cancer of the esophagus. Untreated GERD may also be an underlying cause of many other health issues, including sinus problems.

Treatment for GERD

For patients whose acid reflux or GERD is not well managed by dietary changes or over-the-counter and prescription antacid medications, minimally invasive surgical procedures are available. The experienced surgeons at Norton KDH are well trained in these procedures. If you have frequent heartburn, talk with your primary care provider about a referral or call the General Surgery team at Norton KDH: (812) 801-0840

Tips for heartburn prevention

While patients with GERD may not be able to control heartburn, below are some tips to help prevent the development of heartburn:

  • Quit smoking
  • Avoid foods that cause heartburn and avoid overeating
  • Lose weight
  • Avoid tight clothing
  • Wait at least two hours after you eat before you lie down or recline

Most important: Talk to your provider about your nutritional habits, how frequently you experience heartburn and any over-the-county medications or supplements you may be using. Working together, heartburn and GERD are manageable.

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