Subhankar Chakraborty, MBBS, PhD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)/heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach, becomes weak or relaxes, causing stomach contents to rise up. GERD is the most common esophageal disease, and it can cause damage to the esophagus over time.
People of all ages can develop and suffer from symptoms of GERD. If not treated, it can lead to more serious health problems, including the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus. If you have had symptoms of GERD and have been using antacids or other over-the-counter reflux medications for more than two weeks, see your health care provider.
While the cause of heartburn (GERD) isn’t always known, there are many known risk factors, including:
Patients with long-lasting or recurring heartburn need a full evaluation of their esophageal anatomy and function.
This may include:
GERD is initially managed medically using H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), as well as lifestyle modifications. Many people can improve their symptoms by:
Many H2 blockers (like Zantac and Pepcid AC) and PPIs (like Nexium and Prevacid) are available over the counter without a prescription, and stronger doses can be prescribed by a physician.
For patients who are intolerant of PPIs or concerned about long-term medication use, or who may show symptoms of Barrett’s esophagus, surgical treatment may be the best option.
Surgical options include: