Many people experience heartburn and acid reflux, or GERD, at some point in their lives. In fact, gastrointestinal, or GI, diagnoses affect a substantial portion of the general U.S. population, and GI-related conditions are a considerable source of morbidity, mortality and cost within the U.S.
The most common symptom is an uncomfortable or painful “burning” sensation or pressure in your chest, just behind the breastbone. The pain may worsen after eating or when lying down or bending over, and it can last minutes or continue for a few hours. Other common symptoms include:
• Feeling like food is “sticking” in your chest or throat
• A bitter, sour or acid taste in your mouth
• Discomfort that gets worse after eating
• Burping and/or bloating
It's important to see a doctor about your symptoms because, left untreated, the harsh stomach acids that leak into the esophagus may cause tissue damage over time. In fact, Barrett’s esophagus is a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus is damaged by stomach acid. People who have had reflux for a long time are more likely to have this condition. People with Barrett’s esophagus have an increased risk for esophageal cancer.
Most people can manage the discomfort of heartburn with lifestyle changes, weight loss and medications, including Proton Pump Inhibitors, or PPIs. PPIs reduce the amount of stomach acid made by glands in the lining of the stomach. They include over-the-counter medications, as well as omeprazole. While common, these medications are not without risk. Short-term use can result in headache, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain. Recent studies point to long-term effects, such as increased risk of pneumonia and bone fractures.
Sometimes a surgical approach may be necessary to alleviate symptoms. If surgery is required, Summa Health patients have access to the latest technology and surgical techniques. Surgical options include:
If you are experiencing regular symptoms of heartburn or another swallowing disorder, talk to your doctor. To discuss your condition with Summa Health medical and surgical specialists, schedule an appointment at 330.761.1111.