Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a common digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid flows up into your esophagus. It’s characterized by heartburn and acid reflux, but symptoms go beyond occasional discomfort.
Many people experience heartburn occasionally. But if you have frequent symptoms, it could be a sign of GERD — and it’s essential to get it checked out.
Rachel Alt, MD, Brian Prebil, DO, Jarvis Walters, DO, and our team at the Center for Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery, located in Peoria, Arizona, offer advanced GERD care with minimally invasive surgery. While ignoring GERD can lead to significant complications and a decreased quality of life, the good news is that it’s treatable.
Here are the biggest reasons why you shouldn’t ignore the symptoms of GERD, and what to do if you think you might have the condition.
GERD is uncomfortable
Heartburn is uncomfortable. It presents as a burning sensation in your chest or throat, and GERD causes chronic heartburn and acid reflux symptoms. The pain and discomfort of GERD can disrupt your daily activities and impact your quality of life.
GERD also causes other bothersome symptoms, like difficulty swallowing, a feeling of a lump in the throat, and bad breath. In severe cases, GERD can make it difficult to enjoy meals and even lead to malnutrition or weight loss.
GERD can lead to more significant health issues
Unfortunately, discomfort is just one risk of ignoring GERD. If left untreated, GERD can cause significant damage to your esophagus, including ulcers and scarring.
This esophageal damage may lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. People with Barrett’s esophagus have an increased risk of developing esophageal cancer, which can be deadly if not caught early.
Ignoring GERD can also lead to other health problems. You may develop respiratory issues, like asthma or chronic bronchitis, because stomach acid that flows back up into the esophagus can reach your lungs and cause irritation and inflammation.
GERD is treatable
So, what should you do if you think you might have GERD? The first step is to speak with our team about your symptoms.
Our team at the Center for Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery performs a physical exam and reviews your medical history to diagnose you and recommend a treatment plan. We typically start by prescribing lifestyle changes, like:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Identifying and avoiding trigger foods and beverages
- Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
We may also prescribe medication to reduce stomach acid production or strengthen the muscles in your esophagus to help prevent reflux.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat GERD. We might recommend surgery if you have significant symptoms or a higher risk of GERD complications, like Barrett’s esophagus.
Two common GERD surgeries are fundoplication and hiatal hernia repair. Fundoplication involves wrapping the top of your stomach around your lower esophagus to create a barrier that prevents acid reflux. If your GERD is caused by a hiatal hernia, repairing it helps stop your GERD symptoms.
It can be tempting to take over-the-counter antacids and hope your heartburn symptoms resolve — but ignoring the problem can lead to serious health problems and a decreased quality of life.
If you experience frequent heartburn or acid reflux, book an appointment at the Center for Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery to start getting the care you need. Call our Peoria, Arizona, office at 623-201-8277 or send us a message online today.