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Worst Heartburn Of My Life

The Four Stages Of Gerd And Treatment Options

Acid Reflux | Explained In 60 Seconds

Reflux disease is a chronic and progressive condition. Treatment options depend on the disease stage. The disease stage is determined by the severity of reflux into the esophagus. This in turns depends on how frequent and how long are the reflux episodes. The longer and the more frequent acid reflux episodes are the more significant is the damage to the esophagus. GERD is also associated with a spectrum of symptoms that ranges from mild heartburn to severe chest pain mimicking a heart attack. GERD treatment options are highly dependent upon an individuals GERD stage.

What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Gerd

Often, people who have GERD notice that they regularly have the pain of heartburn in the chest or stomach. This can last up to a couple of hours. Many notice their heartburn is worse after eating.

Regurgitation when food and liquid containing stomach acid comes back up into the throat or mouth is also a sign of GERD. But, like heartburn, occasional regurgitation is common for everyone.

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • a sore, raw throat or hoarse voice
  • a frequent sour taste of acid, especially when lying down
  • a feeling of burping acid into the mouth
  • trouble swallowing
  • bad breath

What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux , also called reflux, is when food and acid from the stomach go back up into the esophagus. This causes an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, often called heartburn.

With GER, reflux happens after nearly every meal and causes noticeable discomfort. After eating, people with GER feel a burning sensation in the chest, neck, and throat.

While it’s more common in adults, kids, teens, and even babies can have gastroesophageal reflux.

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Why You Should Never Ignore Gerd

After several years, untreated GERD erodes the lining of the esophagus, and as a protective mechanism, the esophagus starts to create a new lining with cells that resemble the makeup of the intestine. At this stage, GERD has progressed into a precancerous condition known as Barrett’s esophagus, bringing with it a 30-fold increased risk of eventually developing esophageal cancer.

Esophageal cancer is deadly — only about 15% of people are still alive five years after being diagnosed, according to the American Cancer Society. And it’s more common among individuals who have long suffered from GERD that is not properly treated.

According to a study published in TheNew England Journal of Medicine, cancer of the esophagus was nearly eight times as likely among people who suffered from heartburn at least once a week, and almost 44 times as likely in those who had severe, frequent heartburn for more than 20 years. Almost all of these people had only sporadic treatment for GERD, not long-term treatment.

If you have GERD, and you are having any of these symptoms, tell your doctor right away:

  • If difficulty swallowing or a feeling like food is trapped behind the breastbone becomes a new symptom of your GERD.
  • If you vomit blood or have black, tarry bowel movements.
  • If you have the sensation of acid reflux into the windpipe causing shortness of breath, coughing, or hoarseness.
  • If you lose weight unexpectedly or without trying.

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What Else Should I Know

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Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce or even stop uncomfortable GERD symptoms. Untreated GERD can cause permanent damage to the esophagus.

You’ll probably find that one of the simplest ways to make living with GERD easier is to avoid the things that trigger your symptoms. Some people will have to limit certain foods others may have to give them up entirely. It all depends on your symptoms.

It can be hard to give up sodas or favorite foods at first. But after a while, lots of people discover that they feel so much better that they don’t miss the problem foods as much as they thought they would.

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How Is Heartburn Treated

In most cases, heartburn can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and changes to lifestyle habits that cause the feeling. Occasional heartburn is common and is typically not serious. However, if you have frequent and severe heartburn, reach out to your healthcare provider. This could be a sign of a chronic condition like GERD. GERD can lead to other serious conditions like esophagitis, Barretts esophagus and even cancer. Sometimes, your doctor may want to do an endoscopy to check for underlying medication conditions. An endoscopy is the examination of your digestive tract with a lighted flexible instrument.

Over-the-counter medications for heartburn typically include antacids and acid blockers.

Serious Side Effects Of Heartburn

Even if its not a heart attack, heartburn can be serious. Dangerous side effects and complications can result if you dont seek treatment. Some common side effects include:

  • Awaking from sleep, especially if youve eaten within two hours of going to bed
  • Esophageal cancer: if Barretts esophagus is not treated
  • Esophagus erosion: scarring, ulcers and narrowing of the tube
  • Barretts esophagus: precancerous condition from chronic acid reflux
  • Esophageal strictures and dysphagia: swallowing difficulties due to esophagus damage

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How Is Gerd Diagnosed

Often, your doctor can tell you have GERD by carefully evaluating your symptoms. It also helps the doctor if you keep a food journal and write down when you have your heartburn problems.

Sometimes, the diagnosis must be confirmed by doing an upper endoscopy, a pH probe test or a test using a Bravo capsule. The pH balances tell your doctor the level of acid in your throat.

What Happens During an Upper Endoscopy?

During this procedure, an endoscopea thin tube with a light and cameradown your throat to detect any inflammation of your throat. Dont worry: While you may feel some pressure as it passes down your throat, you should not feel any pain.

What Happens During a pH Probe Test?

A pH probe test measures the amount of stomach acid that comes up into your throat. This information is then relayed to a small computer that is typically worn around your waist.

What is the Bravo Capsule?

This is a wonder of medicine that sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. During an endoscopy, a small capsule, about the size of a gel cap is placed on the wall of your esophagus. It uses radio frequencies to send pH measurements to a receiver. The receiver is the size of a pager.

This information is then analyzed by your health care team. Youll also be asked to keep a daily journal of what you eat and when.

Symptoms Can Last Up To Several Hours After Onset

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Heartburn involves a burning, painful sensation behind your breastbone in the center of your chest.

This pain often gets worse after you eat, in the evening, when you bend over, or when you lie down.

Episodes of heartburn can last between a few minutes and several hours.

In addition to burning sensations in your chest, heartburn may also involve:

  • A burning sensation in your throat
  • Fluid in your throat that tastes bitter, sour, or salty
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sense that food is stuck in your chest or lower throat

Heartburn often begins after youve eaten a large meal, but it can also be triggered by certain foods even if you dont eat very much.

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How Are Gerd And Sleep Related

GERD is often cited as a cause of sleeping problems, including in the National Sleep Foundations 2001 Sleep in America Poll. In a more recent survey of people with frequent heartburn, nearly 60% said it affected their sleep, and more than 30% said it hurt their daytime functioning.

Flare ups of GERD symptoms after lying down can make it hard to fall asleep and can cause nighttime interruptions from heartburn, chest pain, and coughing. Studies in sleep clinics of people with GERD have found that these symptoms are correlated with lower sleep quality.

What Are The Symptoms Of Gerd

Heartburn, which involves a painful burning sensation in the chest, is the most common symptom of GERD, but not all cases of GERD involve heartburn.

Another common symptom of GERD is regurgitation, which means a small amount of stomach acid and sometimes bits of food come up into the mouth or back of the throat.

When leaks of stomach acid rise to the mouth and throat, it can cause coughing and a feeling of choking. It may cause a sore throat, including a hoarse voice. Some patients experience difficulty swallowing, known as dysphagia, or the feeling of something blocking their throat.

On top of the discomfort from heartburn, GERD can cause radiating chest pain that can affect the neck, back, jaw, or arms and last for minutes to hours. This symptom is frequently associated with nighttime awakenings for people with GERD.

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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.

What You Do That Can Exacerbate Acid Reflux

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Certain steps can make matters worse when it comes to your acid reflux, like:

  • Lying down after a meal
  • Eating large meals
  • Drinking lots of coffee, alcohol, carbonated beverages or juices with high acid content
  • Not getting enough fiber

Dr. Kottapalli works with you to raise your awareness about habits you can cultivate that relieve your acid reflux, like eating a balanced, healthy diet, keeping your weight in check, and never touching tobacco products.

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Gerd: A Symptom Checklist

“When you see your doctor, talking through your symptoms is nearly as accurate in diagnosing GERD as the tests we have,” Richter says. “Are the classic symptoms there? If the answer to that question is yes, it’s probably GERD.”

What are those classic symptoms? Here’s a checklist that will help you gauge your reflux troubles:

  • Do you suffer from heartburn symptoms more than two or three times a week?
  • Do the symptoms feel like a burning under your breastbone?
  • Do your symptoms often get worse after eating?
  • Are you taking antacids after every meal to minimize symptoms? Do they help?
  • Do you feel a burning chest pain when exercising?
  • Are your symptoms worse when you lie down?
  • Do you often taste a faint sense of acid in your mouth?
  • Do you have trouble sleeping at night?
  • Do you have asthma that is made worse when you’re having heartburn?
  • Does your voice get scratchy when you have heartburn?
  • Is heartburn interfering with your quality of life?

Answering yes to one or more of these questions might mean you have GERD. Make an appointment to see your doctor.

Treat The Cause Not The Symptoms

Stage 3 and 4 patients have a very weak lower esophageal sphincter the LES and/or a hiatal hernia. If you have stage 3 or 4 GERD, you have an anatomical medical condition. Medications simply suppress the symptoms Medications do not and cannot treat the cause. At Houston Heartburn and Reflux Center, we can help you treat the cause of GERD through a minimally invasive surgical procedure. From initial consultation to diagnostic work-up, surgery, and post-op visits Houston Heartburn and Treatment Center:

  • Facilitates a coordinated team approach of healthcare professional dedicated to the treatment of GERD.
  • Offers access to an efficient, streamlined medical diagnostic program to confirm if you have GERD and/or hiatal hernia.
  • Works with experienced surgeons who are specialist heartburn and reflux physicians.
  • Acts as a liaison with healthcare providers to provide you with the best experience possible.
  • Will help you meet your insurance requirements and assist in the insurance claim process.
  • Will vigorously defend any insurance appeals process, if you are denied the benefits you are due.

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How Is Gerd Treated

Treatment for GERD depends on how severe symptoms are. For some people, treatment may just include lifestyle changes, such as changing what they eat or drink. Others will need to take medicines. In very rare cases, when GERD is particularly severe, a doctor will recommend surgery.

These lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms of GERD or even prevent the condition:

  • quitting smoking
  • losing weight if you are overweight
  • eating small meals
  • avoiding carbonated beverages
  • avoiding foods that trigger reflux

It also can help to not lie down for 3 hours after a meal and to not eat 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Doctors sometimes also recommend raising the head of the bed about 6 to 8 inches. Before you start a major bedroom makeover, though, talk to your doctor and your parents about the best sleeping position for you.

If symptoms continue, doctors might prescribe medicine, such as:

  • H2 blockers, which can help block the production of stomach acid
  • proton pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid the stomach makes
  • prokinetics, which help the esophageal sphincter work better and the stomach empty faster. This can prevent reflux episodes.

Stage : Reflux Induced Precancerous Lesions Or Esophageal Cancer

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Stage 4 is the result of many years of untreated severe reflux. 10% of patients with long-term GERD progress to stage 4. They develop a pre-cancerous condition called Barretts esophagus. Barretts esophagus may progress to cancer if untreated. There are different modalities of treatment for Barretts esophagus aimed at preventing progression to cancer. Close follow up and management by a reflux expert is highly recommended.

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Gerd And Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Research has also identified a link between GERD and obstructive sleep apnea , a sleep disorder that involves blockage of the airway that incites pauses in breathing during sleep. Debate exists among experts about whether GERD causes OSA, OSA causes GERD, or if they simply share similar risk factors.

It is possible that GERD affects the airway and ability to breathe normally, causing more apneas during the night. At the same time, people with OSA wake up frequently at night and may then detect GERD symptoms. Lack of sleep from OSA may make the esophagus more susceptible to reflux.

In addition, factors like alcohol consumption, smoking, and obesity can increase risk for both GERD and OSA, so the correlation between the conditions may be a result of these factors.

While the exact relationship between GERD and OSA is subject to further research, it is clear that the conditions can occur together and create significant complications for a persons sleep, comfort, and overall health.

Six Signs Your Heartburn Could Be Something More Serious

That burning, uncomfortable sensation in your chest? Itâs probably heartburn. Heartburn is a very common ailment that affects many people for many reasons. It occurs when digestive acid escapes the stomach and irritates the delicate lining of the esophagus.

Usually, itâs the result of eating certain foods, or simply overeating, and can be treated with over-the-counter antacids. But sometimes, heartburn is a symptom of bigger problems, that require other solutions. Hereâs when to call a doctor:

Read Also: Why Do I Have Heartburn At Night

What Is The Difference Between Regular Heartburn And Gerd

Everyone has heartburn from time to time. Theres nothing unusual about that. Generally, taking an antacid helps. However, if youre popping Tums more than three times a week, its time to speak to your doctor.

The technical definition of GERD is mild acid reflux that occurs twice a week or moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs once a week. When over-the-counter medicines dont make a dent in the horrible heartburn, you likely have GERD.

Complementary And Alternative Medicines

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Functional heartburn patients often pursue complementary and alternative therapies as pharmacologic options are limited . An open-label, controlled trial of nine functional heartburn patients evaluated the efficacy of esophageal-directed hypnotherapy on heartburn symptoms . After completing seven sessions of weekly hypnotherapy, patients had a demonstrable improvement in visceral anxiety and emotional quality of life , and all patients reported a subjective improvement in heartburn symptoms. A clinical trial of 30 patients with refractory heartburn symptoms demonstrated that acupuncture with single daily PPI improved heartburn symptoms more than doubling the PPI dose . This is thought to be due in part to the effect of acupuncture on visceral hypersensitivity. In contrast to hypnotherapy and acupuncture, a prospective analysis of 22 patients, 13 with functional heartburn and 9 with functional chest pain, evaluating biofeedback demonstrated a significant improvement in symptoms in functional chest pain patients but no improvement in functional heartburn patients .

LAWRENCE J. CHESKIN, DEBRA L. MILLER, in, 2001

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How Is Gord Diagnosed

In most cases, your doctor will be able to diagnose GORD by asking questions about your symptoms. If the diagnosis isnt clear, your symptoms dont get better or they suspect complications, your doctor may order further tests.

The most common test for GORD is an endoscopy, where a long, thin flexible tube that has a light source and video camera is inserted down the throat to examine and take images of the inside of the body.

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