One in three people are affected by the most common chronic gastrointestinal disorder in the U.S. – acid reflux disease, also commonly known as gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). For those who suffer, pain and discomfort can impact quality of life, as many people are plagued with symptoms such as chest pain, regurgitation, swallowing troubles, chronic cough, hoarseness or sore throat. This is not a condition you should just live with or allow to get worse; as health care providers say it may lead to more serious conditions including Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer.
“While occasional acid reflux and heartburn are very common symptoms to experience, frequent symptoms of acid reflux could suggest that one is at increased risk for complications of acid reflux,” shares Utica Park Clinic gastroenterologist Dr. Christopher Lynch. “Among others, these complications can include benign strictures which can cause trouble swallowing, bleeding from the esophagus, and even esophageal cancer. Additionally, acid reflux can indicate the presence of another problem in the gastrointestinal tract, such as a blockage in the stomach or small bowel.”
If you have suffered from acid reflux, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. “Untreated acid reflux can result in chronic damage or scarring in the esophagus,” explains Dr. Lynch. “Scarring in the esophagus can cause strictures, which become more difficult to treat as further acid damage occurs.”
Delay in properly managing acid reflux may lead to a condition call Barrett’s esophagus. “Barrett's esophagus may lead to esophageal cancer, the solid cancer most rapidly increasing in incidence in this country,” says Dr. Lynch. “Most often when esophageal cancer is discovered, treatment options are limited and mortality rates are very high. Therefore, controlling acid reflux and detecting its complications early is of paramount importance.”
Treatment Options to Relieve Acid Reflux Disease
Dr. Lynch says there are some changes you can make at the time of diagnosis to help control acid reflux prior to medication therapy or surgical intervention. “Several modifications to one's lifestyle, including among others diet, weight loss, and quitting smoking are the first line in the treatment of acid reflux,” he adds.
Medications can be used judiciously to suppress acid, but these do not necessarily prevent reflux.
For many patients, Dr. Lynch says the only way to prevent reflux is through surgery. “These surgeries include new options which are becoming less invasive and very effective,” Dr. Lynch explains. “In patients with Barrett's esophagus, we now have tools to eradicate Barrett's and hopefully decrease a patient's risk of developing esophageal cancer.”
To learn more about services available at The Heart Burn & Reflux Center at Hillcrest South to treat acid reflux disease, visit Tulsaheartburn.com.