Have you ever felt like someone lit a bonfire in your chest? Does the burning sensation rise into your throat? Do you “feel the burn” after you eat spicy, heavy or fatty foods? Most of us will experience heartburn or acid reflux at some point during our lives.
In fact, more than 40 percent of Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month. While occasional heartburn isn’t something to worry about, frequent symptoms could signal a more serious problem known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or acid reflux. Left untreated, acid reflux can sometimes lead to significant health complications, such as Barrett’s esophagus.
The good news is, there’s a place in West Michigan specifically designed to put an end to that burning—so you can live a healthier, higher quality of life. Holland Hospital’s Reflux Center features a team who exclusively delivers the latest treatments and procedures for acid reflux and its related conditions.
Best of all, you don’t have to travel far to take advantage of this expertise.
A Quick Look at Heartburn and Acid Reflux (GERD)
Heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into the esophagus (tube that connects your throat to your stomach). The sensation of burning is generally felt in the upper and central part of the chest, just behind the breast bone (sternum). Heartburn can worsen or be brought on by lying flat or on your right side.
With GERD, the burning sensation is caused when stomach acid reaches the esophagus. However, not everyone with GERD has heartburn. Other signs and symptoms may include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Feeling as if there is a lump in your throat
- Hoarse voice
- Coughing, wheezing or frequent throat clearing
How common is GERD?
- Approximately 40 percent of Americans are affected by GERD during their lifetime.
- About 1 in 5 people experience symptoms of GERD on a weekly basis.
- Up to 26.5 percent of those with chronic GERD may develop Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which the cells lining the esophagus change abnormally, increasing the risk of throat cancer.
When should you call your doctor?
While occasional heartburn can usually be successfully treated with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, you should contact your doctor if you have frequent heartburn that won’t go away. Without treatment, chronic acid reflux or GERD can cause other serious health problems, such as esophageal bleeding, ulcers and Barrett’s esophagus. Although rare, Barrett’s esophagus can lead to esophageal cancer.
If you’re suffering without relief, talk to your primary care provider for a physician referral.
Specialists Who Specialize in You
Our gastrointestinal (GI) specialists are not only highly qualified, but also highly attuned to offering personalized, patient-centered support. Dedicated to enhancing your comfort and peace of mind, the Reflux Center team includes surgeons, gastroenterologists, ENT physicians, registered nurses, Reflux Nurse Navigator and technical assistants specializing in digestive health.
Diagnosis: The First Step Toward Recovery
Knowing if you have GERD is the first step toward recovery. Holland Hospital’s Reflux Center offers the latest diagnostic and treatment options proven to pinpoint and address GERD symptoms.
- Ambulatory pH Testing
- Bravo Capsule (72 hrs)
- Ph Catheter-Digitrapper (24 hrs)
- Ph probe-Restech (24 hrs)
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
Treatment That Fits Your Life
Because not all patient needs and goals are the same, treatment options for acid reflux vary. Your treatment may include medication (OTC or prescription), lifestyle modification, a combination of both, or surgery.
Making lifestyle changes
Lifestyle modification may include things like avoiding certain foods that trigger heartburn or other symptoms, quitting smoking, eating smaller portions and/or eating dinner earlier, improving your posture, raising the head of your bed, wearing loose-fitting clothing, and maintaining a healthy weight.
There are several OTC medications for heartburn, including antacids to neutralize stomach acids (e.g., Mylanta, Maalox, Rolaids, Tums), H-2 blockers like Zantac, Axid and Pepcid that reduce the production of acid, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) that block acid production, such as Prilosec and Prevacid. Depending on strength, H-2 blockers and PPIs are available both as OTC meds and by prescription.
When other treatments aren’t providing sufficient relief, you’ve been having reflux symptoms for over a year two to three times per week, or you cannot take PPI medications, surgery might be your solution. Whether you’re a good candidate for reflux surgery will depend on your overall health, and your medical history and symptoms.
Our GI specialists have extensive experience treating heartburn and GERD, including performing the latest surgery options. The Holland Hospital Reflux Center provides close-to-home access to the following procedures:
- Laparoscopic nissen fundoplication (LNF)
- LINX reflux procedure
For More Information
Speak with your primary care provider for a physician referral. We are eager to work with you to diagnose and create an effective GERD treatment plan just for you.