Three out of 10 people experience heartburn occasionally. Most people are able to manage symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux with over-the-counter medications and through lifestyle changes. If you are not able to manage your symptoms with over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes you should schedule an appointment with your gastroenterologist to see what your options are to reduce your symptoms. If you take over-the-counter medication for heartburn more than twice per week, you should see your doctor. Your physician may suggest stronger prescription medication to help reduce your symptoms. In some cases surgery may be recommended to help control acid reflux symptoms. Although symptoms of acid reflux, or GERD, are usually just annoying, if your symptoms go untreated they can have serious consequences, such as esophagitis or Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is a condition which increases your chances of developing esophageal cancer.
Common symptoms of GERD include: pain when swallowing; difficulty swallowing (dysphagia); dry cough; hoarseness or sore throat; asthma; chest pain; heartburn; regurgitation; burping; bad breath and/or bad taste in mouth. You should always seek immediate medical care if you experience chest pain. If you are bothered by frequent symptoms or signs of heartburn, your gastroenterologist may be able to diagnosis you based on the symptoms that you experience. Your physician may recommend further testing which can include: an EGD (an endoscopy that is passed through the mouth and looks at the lining of the esophagus and stomach); barium swallow (an x-ray of the esophagus); Esophageal Manometry (assesses the esophageal function); or pH monitoring (uses a pH monitor to record the acidity in your esophagus over a 24-hour period).
If you are experiencing symptoms of GERD it is important to see your physician, especially if you are taking over-the-counter medications for your symptoms. Your gastroenterologist will be able to help diagnosis your condition and help create a plan to reduce the symptoms that you are experiencing. It is dangerous to leave your symptoms untreated because they can develop into more serious conditions such as esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus. If you have any further questions, please contact Utah Digestive Health Institute for more information at (801) 475-5400.
1. “Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease.” WebMD. WebMD Medical Reference. July 25, 2012. Web 18 Oct 2013.
2. “GERD.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). April 13, 2012. Web 18 Oct 2013.