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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:

  • Heartburn
  • Regurgitation
  • Bloating
  • An acid or bitter taste in the back of your mouth
  • Nausea
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Chronic cough
  • Recurrent pneumonia
  • Hoarseness
  • 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 esophagus.

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.

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