Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD Treatment in Fremont
While occasional heartburn is not necessarily a cause for concern, frequent
heartburn can be a sign of a more serious condition. About 25% to 40%
of Americans experience gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)—and
between 7% and 10% of adults experience symptoms daily. The National Institute
of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases warns that ongoing reflux
that happens more than two times per week is considered GERD. This condition
can eventually cause significant, irreversible damage. Our thoracic surgeons
at Washington Township Medical Foundation provide specified treatment
plans to patients suffering from GERD.
Symptoms of GERD
GERD can result in a number of symptoms including:
- An acid or bitter taste in the back of your mouth
- Chronic ear infections
- Chronic cough
- Recurrent pneumonia
- Oral cavity problems
- Dental decay
- Malodorous breath
What Causes GERD?
There is a range of possible causes for GERD, with obesity being the most
frequent culprit. Other possible contributing factors include stress or
taking a medication that causes your stomach to empty more slowly. GERD
can also be due to a hiatal hernia, which occurs when the upper part of
the stomach rises up inside the chest.
If you have irritable bowel syndrome with chronic abdominal pain, discomfort,
bloating, and alteration of bowel habits, this can also lead to reflux
symptoms. In addition, anxiety-related problems such as panic disorder
can bring about symptoms of GERD.
How Is GERD Diagnosed?
Four tests are utilized to confirm a GERD diagnosis. The tests include:
Barium swallow – After you swallow a barium solution, X-rays are taken to get a
good picture of the overall anatomy and function of your esophagus.
Upper endoscopy – A thin, flexible plastic tube, with a light and lens on the end
that acts as a tiny camera, is inserted down your throat after you have
been mildly sedated. This allows the physician to see the inside lining
of your esophagus and search for abnormalities.
Manometry – A catheter is slipped into your nose to check the pressure in
the esophagus while you are swallowing liquids or semisolids. This will
indicate how the esophagus and the sphincter valve between the esophagus
and the stomach are functioning.
pH monitoring – A catheter is inserted into your esophagus, resting there for
one or two days while you go about your normal activities. This test measures
how much acid and non-acid reflux material may be coming into your esophagus.
Treatments for GERD
GERD can be treated in a variety of ways. If your tests show no anatomic
abnormalities, you may be prescribed drugs called H2 blockers or proton
pump inhibitors. H2 blockers provide short-term relief by decreasing the
acid production in your digestive tract. They are available by prescription
or over-the-counter. Proton pump inhibitors are available by prescription
to relieve symptoms while also helping to heal the lining of the
If, however, you have an anatomic or functional problem of the sphincter
valve between the esophagus and the stomach, or if you have a hiatal hernia,
you may need surgery. The team at WTMF can perform minimally invasive
laparoscopic surgery to relieve the symptoms of GERD, improve function,
and restore the anatomy. This will prevent reflux from continuing to come
back into the esophagus from the stomach.
Laparoscopic surgery for GERD takes about one hour. Afterwards, patients
stay in the hospital for one or two nights before going home and can usually
return to work or other normal activities in about a week. Patients are
restricted from doing any heavy lifting for about six weeks after surgery
to allow for proper healing.
Addressing GERD Is Important
If you continue to have symptoms of GERD without being diagnosed and treated,
it can have potentially devastating results. Ongoing reflux can lead to
inflammation of the esophagus, which can result in scarring and narrowing.
In extreme cases, it might be necessary to surgically remove the esophagus.
Continued reflux can also lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a premalignant
condition that increases your chances of getting cancer of the esophagus.
At Washington Township Medical Foundation, when we consider how to treat
someone for GERD, we look at the whole person and determine if the surgical
option will be the most beneficial for them.