About 10% of adults have heartburn every week, which is frequent enough to make them wonder when normal heartburn, also called acid reflux, crosses the line to become gastroesophageal disease (GERD). The gastrointestinal specialists at Triborough GI encourage you to schedule an exam any time heartburn is severe, wakes you up during the night, or occurs two or more times weekly because untreated GERD leads to tissue damage, inflammation, and precancerous changes. To schedule an appointment, use the online booking form or call one of the offices in Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Staten Island, New York.
Heartburn is caused by acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when stomach contents, including strong gastric acids, come out of the stomach and up into your esophagus, the muscular tube that connects your throat to your stomach.
Normally, a round muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) holds undigested food and gastric acid inside your stomach. The LES automatically opens to allow food, beverages, and other consumables into your stomach, then it tightly closes to keep everything in your stomach.
When the LES is weakened, or relaxes when it shouldn’t, your stomach contents come out and regurgitate into the esophagus.
When you have heartburn several times a week and the problem continues for a few weeks, you have GERD. GERD causes the same type of heartburn and chest pain, as well as other symptoms, such as:
Many patients find that their symptoms worsen when they lie down, often waking them during the night and interfering with their sleep.
Diagnostic testing may include an upper endoscopy to examine the inside of your esophagus and take tissue samples. You may also have an upper gastrointestinal X-ray or an ambulatory pH test.
The doctors at Triborough GI often perform a 48-hour BRAVO™ pH test to determine whether stomach acid is regurgitating into your esophagus. An endoscope is used to attach a small pH capsule to the lower part of your esophagus, then you wear a receiver around your waist for 48 hours.
The capsule measures the presence of stomach acid, then sends the information to the receiver. During your 48-hour test, you’ll also note when you eat, lie down, or have symptoms. The pH capsule naturally falls off the esophagus and passes through your digestive tract.
Mild cases of acid reflux may respond to over-the-counter medications, but GERD needs professional evaluation and treatment. When GERD isn’t properly treated, the acid damages your esophagus, causing inflammation, bleeding, ulcers, and scarring. Over time, chronic inflammation may cause precancerous changes to the esophageal lining.
Treatment for GERD often requires a multidisciplinary approach, including changing your diet to eliminate foods that trigger GERD, losing weight if necessary, and medications such as proton pump inhibitors.
When conservative therapies fail to improve your symptoms, the experts at Triborough GI may recommend surgery to tighten the LES and prevent reflux.
If you suffer from heartburn, schedule an appointment online or call Triborough GI.