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What Kind Of Doctor Should I See For Heartburn

What Kind Of Doctor Treats Peptic Ulcers

Which Doctor Should I See?
  • If you suspect you may have a peptic ulcer, you may first be diagnosed by your family practitioner or internist.
  • Children or teenagers may see a pediatrician.
  • For further treatment you will likely be referred to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in disorders of the digestive tract.
  • If you have an emergency such as vomiting or severe abdominal pain you will be seen by an emergency medicine specialist in an emergency room.
  • In the rare case where surgery is needed, you may see a general surgeon.

Is It Gerd Or Heartburn 6 Signs And When To See A Doctor

By Dr. Said Nabhan

If your afternoons increasingly feel like a recurring series of Revenge of the Lunch, the cause might not be something that was inside the meal it might be something inside of you.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can make a taco that tasted delicious at noon become a nightmare by 3 p.m. It occurs when acids and other stomach contents persistently back up into the esophagus, the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. This is due to a weakening of the muscle between the stomach and esophagus it just doesnt close all the way.

An estimated 20% of people in the United States experience gastroesophageal reflux disease. Many, however, do not consult a doctor. They may dismiss the events as common acid reflux or heartburn an occasional burning sensation in the neck and chest. But if the symptoms are frequent, long-lasting, and severe enough to interfere with day-to-day life enjoyments, it could be GERD.

When should someone see a doctor for recurring and severe acid reflux? Thats a trick question: The answer is always, because GERD can cause tissue damage to the esophagus. Untreated or unregulated, GERD can develop into more serious conditions.

Indeed, in 2010 , 4.7 million people were hospitalized for GERD .

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But until the patient consults a physician, meals could remain recurring nightmares.

What Are Symptoms Of Gerd

There are two types of symptoms that are attributable to GERD: Typical and Atypical symptoms.

Typical symptoms include: heartburn, which is a burning pain behind the sternum or breast bone, and reflux or regurgitation in which one experiences flow of stomach contents upwards into the chest, mouth and or throat. When longstanding, patients may experience dysphagia or trouble swallowing as a result of inflammation or formation of a stricture .

Atypical symptoms include chest pain, a sensation of something stuck in the throat , a chronic cough, hoarseness, wheezing, and nausea. These symptoms can be caused by conditions other than GERD therefore are not sufficient to make a diagnosis of GERD in the absence of more typical or classic symptoms.

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When Should I See A Doctor If I Think I Have A Peptic Ulcer

  • If you have burning pain in your upper stomach that is relieved by eating or taking antacids, call a health-care professional for an appointment. Don’t assume you have an ulcer. Certain other conditions can cause similar symptoms.
  • If you vomit blood or have other signs of gastrointestinal bleeding, go to an emergency department right away. Peptic ulcers can cause massive bleeding, which requires blood transfusion or surgery.
  • Severe abdominal pain suggests perforation or tearing of an ulcer. This is an emergency that may require surgery to fix a hole in your stomach.
  • Vomiting and abdominal pain also can be a sign of an obstruction, another complication of peptic ulcers. This also may require emergency surgery.

Treatment Options For Heartburn Acid Reflux And Gerd

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There are many over-the-counter medications that can help treat heartburn by neutralizing and inhibiting stomach acid. However, if youre having to consume these medications like candy, you may need to speak to your physician about better options, including lifestyle and diet changes. In fact, one of the best ways to reduce regular episodes of heartburn is by being more mindful about when and what you eat and how quickly you lie down after eating. In some cases, if the reflux is severe or is at risk of causing long-term damage to your throat and esophagus, surgery may be necessary. Our team of providers can create a personalized heartburn management plan for you that addresses all of your unique needs and concerns.

If you are experiencing symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux, visit Allied Digestive Disease Center of Houston. Our team strives to provide excellence in gastroenterology, hepatology, and nutrition services for patients in North Houston and the surrounding areas. We believe quality care begins with a patient-centered approach to diagnosing and treating both minor and chronic GI conditions. Schedule an appointment at our practice today by or fill out the form on this page.

Read Also: How To Get Heartburn To Go Away Fast

If You Or Your Child Has Trouble Swallowing

If you’ve had heartburn or acid reflux for so long that you have trouble swallowing, then it’s a sign that damage to the esophagus has been building for awhile. The esophagus may be inflamed, scarred or full of ulcers, indicating esophageal cancer. Other symptoms to be on the look out for include nausea and vomiting, particularly if you’re vomiting blood.

It’s important to note that children can suffer from heartburn and acid reflux as well. Unless you have an extremely advanced child, he or she probably won’t be able to put the discomfort into words, so take note if a baby experiences trouble swallowing. Other signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease in children are repeated regurgitation, asthmalike symptoms, frequent arching of the back and irritability after feedings. The good news? Many infants and children outgrow the condition, though don’t sit around and wait for them to do so: See a doctor.

How Gastroenterologists Help With Gerd

The key to treating your GERD: a board-certified gastroenterologist

If you are suffering from chronic acid reflux, a specialist can help. GERD is a potentially serious condition, and it will not go away on its own. Untreated GERD can lead to inflammation of the esophagus and cause complications like ulcers, strictures and increased risk of Barretts esophagus, which is a precursor to esophageal cancer.

A gastroenterologist is a physician with specialized training in managing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract . Our gastroenterologists are fellowship-trained and qualified to diagnose GERD and help develop a meet your treatment plan.

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Is It Heartburn Or A Heart Attack

Chest pain is a very common reason for people to go to the hospital emergency department. While many of these people are suffering from a heart attack, some are experiencing severe heartburn. A heart attack can feel like bad indigestion.

Its so difficult to tell these 2 apart that sophisticated medical testing is needed to determine if they are in fact having a heart attack.

If you have any chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes or any heart attack warning signs such as shortness of breath or pain in your jaw or arm, its important to seek immediate medical attention by calling triple zero .

If you have any doubt about whether your symptoms are heartburn or a heart attack, then also seek immediate medical attention by calling triple zero . Remember its always OK to call triple zero , even if its a false alarm.

Which Types Of Doctors Treat Acid Reflux When Should You See One

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Although many people can relieve their reflux disease symptoms by changes in their habits, diet, and lifestyle, others need to consult their health-care professional.

You can start with your family or general practitioner . You may be referred to a gastroenterologist, a specialist in disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. If your symptoms are severe and require surgery, you will be referred to a general surgeon. Certain diagnostic tests for GERD are done by a radiologist.

  • Call your health-care professional when symptoms of GERD occur frequently, disrupt your sleep, interfere with work or other activities, are associated with respiratory problems, or are not relieved by self-care measures alone.
  • Make your health-care professional aware that you are using self-care measures or over-the-counter medications so that they can monitor how well they work and how often you need to use them.

If you have any of the following, go immediately to the emergency department where you will be seen by an emergency medical specialist:

  • Severe chest pain or pressure, especially if it radiates to your arm, neck, or back
  • Vomiting followed by severe chest pain
  • Vomiting blood

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What Should You Know About Heartburn

Heartburn is a symptom that feels like a burning in your chest, and is a symptom of acid reflux .

Do most people get heartburn?

Heartburn is more common during pregnancy. Most people get heartburn after meals, but can also awaken people while they are sleeping. People also may experience heartburn after eating specific foods or drinking certain beverages.

What can heartburn be a sign or symptom of?

How can you tell if you are having a heart attack or heartburn?

How can you get rid of heartburn?

Heartburn can be relieved and cured for many people with lifestyle changes, for example,

  • eat a healthy diet,
  • sleep with your head elevated with pillow.
  • Over-the-counter, prescription, and surgery may be necessary to cure heartburn.

Heartburn Treatment At Home

For occasional heartburn, you can manage it at home with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medicines. Try eating smaller meals and eliminating the types of foods and beverages that trigger your heartburn. Shedding extra pounds, managing stress, and cutting out cigarettes are smart choices for your heartburn and the rest of your health as well. Also, consider adjusting how you dress and possibly how you sleep. Some people find relief by raising the head of the bed several inches.

If lifestyle changes alone dont help, OTC medicines can often provide relief for heartburn. For quick relief, antacids are your choice. They neutralize stomach acid and stop the burning. You can also find H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors on your drug store shelves. Examples include cimetidine , famotidine , lansoprazole , and omeprazole . These medicines reduce the amount of acid your stomach makes. They dont work as quickly as antacids, but they last longer.

Read Also: Foods That Cause Heartburn Or Acid Reflux

What Is The Best Medication For Heartburn

The best medications for heartburn include antacids and histamine H2 antagonists. Used to bind excess acid in the stomach and to coat the esophagus, antacids may be taken after meals, at bedtime, or when needed. Histamine H2 antagonists are medications that block the action of chemicals that stimulates stomach cells to produce acid known as histamines. These work on the acid-producing cells of the stomach to decrease acid production and to potentially decrease symptoms.

Other Symptoms Of Gord

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GORD can also cause other problems such as:

  • feeling or being sick
  • laryngitis which causes throat pain and hoarseness
  • bad breath
  • bloating and belching

Some people may also find swallowing painful. This is caused by ulcers in the oesophagus and can happen with hot or cold solids or liquids.

If you have the acid reflux at night, you might also develop a cough or laryngitis. If you have asthma and GORD, your asthma symptoms may become worse.

Recommended Reading: Whats The Difference Between Acid Reflux And Heartburn

How Do Doctors Diagnose Acid Reflux

Your doctor usually can diagnose reflux disease by the symptoms you report.

  • Diet and lifestyle changes may be recommended first, and perhaps an over-the-counter antacid.
  • If symptoms continue more than 4 weeks despite this therapy the person may be referred to a gastroenterologist, which is a doctor who specializes in the gastrointestinal tract.

The gastroenterologist may perform an upper GI series.

  • This is a series of X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the intestine.
  • It is taken after you drink a contrast liquid that makes certain features show up better on the X-rays.
  • This series is sometimes called a barium swallow for one type of contrast liquid that is used and when the examination is limited to the esophagus.
  • This test gives less information than an upper GI endoscopy but is ordered to rule out other conditions such as ulcers or blockage of the esophagus. The upper GI series is sometimes skipped altogether.

The gastroenterologist may perform an upper GI endoscopy, also called esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD, a procedure that can be done as an outpatient.

Esophageal manometry is a test that measures the function of the lower esophageal sphincter and the motor function of the esophagus. A tube is passed down your throat until it reaches the esophagus. It is often performed along with 24-hour pH probe study.

When Should I See A Doctor For Heartburn

Everyone suffers from the occasional bout of heartburn. It often occurs if you drink too much alcohol, eat too late at night, or eat something spicy. But if youre having regular recurrences of heartburn or a constant feeling of pain in your gut or esophagus, you should see a doctor to rule out something more serious.

Read Also: What Can Help With Heartburn And Indigestion

Is There Surgery To Treat Acid Reflux

Surgery is never the first option for treating GERD. Changes in lifestyle, diet, and habits, nonprescription antacids, and prescription medications all must be tried before resorting to surgery. Only if all else fails is surgery recommended. Because lifestyle changes and medications work well in most people, surgery is done on only a small number of people.

The operation used most often for GERD is called fundoplication.

  • Fundoplication works by increasing pressure in the lower esophagus to keep acid from backing up.
  • The surgeon wraps part of your stomach around your esophagus like a collar and tacks it down to provide more of a one-way valve effect.
  • This procedure now can be done laparoscopically. The surgeon makes a couple of very small cuts in your belly and inserts long narrow instruments and a fiberoptic camera through the slits. This method leaves little scarring and can produce a much faster recovery.
  • A newer procedure, the LINX procedure, works by placing a ring around the lower esophageal sphincter and is less invasive than a fundoplication.
  • Like all surgical procedures, fundoplication does not always work and can have complications.

When To Call The Doctor About Heartburn Or Reflux

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If you have any of the following heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms or conditions, contact your doctor.

  • Your heartburn symptoms have become more severe or frequent.
  • You are having difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing, especially with solid foods or pills.
  • Your heartburn is causing you to have nausea or vomiting .
  • You’ve experienced a drastic or unexplained weight loss accompanied by heartburn.
  • You have a chronic cough, choking sensation or sense of a lump in your throat.
  • You have been using over-the-counter antacid medications for more than two weeks , and you still have heartburn symptoms.
  • You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription or nonprescription medications.
  • You have chronic hoarseness or wheezing, or your asthma has worsened.
  • Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.
  • You are having chest pain accompanied by pain in the neck, jaw, arms, or legs shortness of breath, weakness, irregular pulse, or sweating.

Also Check: What Medication To Take For Heartburn

When Should You See Your Doctor About Heartburn Symptoms

Trouble swallowing and hoarseness are two warning signs of potentially serious complications from heartburn and warrant a visit to your doctor.

Everyday Health: When should you see your doctor about your heartburn symptoms?

Kenneth Brown, MD: You should see your doctor immediately if you have any trouble swallowing, chest pain, hoarseness, or any other atypical symptom. Anyone with reflux-like symptoms over a period of years is at risk for esophageal cancer and should also see a physician. Finally, if the symptoms persist after trying a two-week course of over-the-counter medications, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Andrew Sable, MD, and Seth Rosen, MD: Heartburn symptoms that occur occasionally – fewer than two times per week – and easily respond to over-the-counter acid reducers rarely suggest a serious condition. If symptoms are more frequent or more severe, if they consistently wake you up at night, or if you develop difficulty swallowing, then you should seek medical evaluation. These symptoms could represent complications from acid reflux and GERD such as Barretts esophagus or a stricture in the esophagus. Barretts esophagus can increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

Elisa Faybush, MD: If you have any of the following heartburn symptoms or conditions, contact your doctor:

Diagnostic Tools Used To Determine Why Youre Having Heartburn

While our physicians will take a careful medical history from you and ask many questions about your lifestyle and dietary habits, we also have a number of diagnostic tools at our disposal to help determine the condition, including upper GI endoscopy, x-ray, ambulatory acid probe tests, and acid monitoring. We can use these diagnostic tests to determine how much acid and how often the acid rises into your esophagus and what kind of damage there may be.

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