Everyone deals with an occasional attack of heartburn, but if it’s a persistent problem – you might have a condition known as GERD. In normal digestion there is a “gate” called the lower esophageal sphincter, which opens to allow food into the stomach and closes when food isn’t passing through. For those with GERD, this “gate” is broken and it allows acid to travel from the stomach up to the throat, causing irritation.
What should you do if you think you have GERD?
If you’re popping antacids left and right, it’s time to see your doctor. Your doctor will run a series of tests to diagnose the problem.
You doctor will use a special X-ray machine called the barium swallow radiograph to take a look at your esophagus. You’ll drink some barium, which will allow your doctor to see if you have any changes in your esophagus. You could still have acid reflux without the X-ray picking up any abnormalities, so your doctor might try a different tactic, like an endoscopy.
During an endoscopy, a small camera is placed on a tube and inserted into your throat. Your doctor will give you a sedative to help you relax and make the procedure more comfortable. It usually takes about 20 minutes. Again, it’s not guaranteed to detect changes, but it is another tool doctors can use to check for the condition.
In addition to these tests, your doctor will talk with you about your symptoms.
Based on these results, your doctor will create a treatment plan.
What kinds of treatments are available?
According to Healthlinerx, doctors typically recommend lifestyle and dietary changes to prevent GERD from flaring up. Foods like chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods, coffee, alcoholic beverages, citrus fruits and juices, tomato products, and pepper are known to irritate the situation and should be avoided.
There are certain medications that can treat GERD, they are known as proton pump inhibitors. Medications like Prilosec and Nexium are often prescribed by doctors to treat chronic cases.
In rare cases, surgery is needed to fix the problem; however, your doctor will create a treatment plan that’s right for you.