Do you have heartburn? Do you find yourself frequently bothered by the following?
- A burning sensation in the chest
- A bitter or sour taste in the back of the mouth
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Worsening of the above symptoms when bending over or lying down
- Chronic cough or hoarseness
If those are familiar symptoms, then you may be among the 20 percent of American adults who suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This condition is so common that many people regard it as an annoyance rather than a serious problem; however, left untreated, GERD can cause result in bleeding, ulcers or a precancerous condition known as Barrett's esophagus and cancer.
How does heartburn happen?
GERD happens when the muscle between the esophagus and stomach doesn't close properly, allowing stomach acid to escape upward (or reflux) into the esophagus. This causes an uncomfortable burning sensation, along with other unpleasant symptoms.
It is not unusual for most people to experience heartburn on occasion, particularly if they consume certain triggers, including citrus, chocolate, caffeinated drinks and fatty, fried foods. But people who have heartburn more than twice a week may be GERD sufferers.
But how are you supposed to know if you have GERD? Or how to handle it if you do?
That is why we have developed the Trinity Heartburn Program.
How do you get started?
The steps to getting involved with the program are simple:
- Call the heartburn hotline at (563) 742-2800
- Provide answers for several simple health-related questions
- Using the information you offer, a nurse will evaluate the information to determine the likelihood that you have GERD
- If it is decided that you may be at risk, you will be referred to a local physician for an evaluation and, if necessary, testing
- The results from your visit will let your primary care doctor what to do next
What are your treatment options?
There are a variety of ways to control or treat heartburn. Some people find their symptoms are reduced through simple lifestyle changes, including not drinking alcohol or smoking, not lying down for several hours after a meal, eating small meals, losing weight and sleeping with the head of the bed elevated.
For others, over-the-counter medications work very well at controlling symptoms. When those don't work, prescription drugs are available.
Finally, the most extreme cases can call for a surgery to help tighten the inefficient muscle that allows the acid to reflux, known as robotic nissen fundoplication.
With information provided by the Trinity Heartburn Program, your doctor can help you determine what steps are right for you.
Click here to listen to a 2-minute audio interview about heartburn with Dr. Gregory Bohn, Trinity surgeon