Frequent heartburn? Here’s when you should see a doctor.
It’s not uncommon to feel heartburn after a spicy meal or alcoholic beverage.
But for 1 in 5 Americans, frequent heartburn is a result of GERD—gastroesophageal reflux disease, says Dr. JoAnn O’Keefe, Mon Health Gastroenterologist.
“GERD causes the contents of the stomach to flow back into the esophagus, a sensation many of us know as reflux,” says Dr. O’Keefe. “There are several medical options available to manage GERD’s uncomfortable symptoms, but it can cause more serious complications if left untreated.”
Left ignored, GERD can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a condition in which esophageal lining changes to tissue resembling intestinal lining. The disease increases a person’s risk for esophageal cancer and is more common among men than women, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Common symptoms of GERD
Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD, says Dr. O’Keefe, but other symptoms may include:
- Painful or difficulty swallowing
- Hoarseness in the throat
- Having to frequently clear the throat
- The feeling of food being “stuck” in the esophagus
- Frequent sore throat
- Frequent coughing and/or wheezing
When you should see a doctor for heartburn
The occasional episode of heartburn or reflux is probably harmless, says Dr. O’Keefe. But if your symptoms are frequent and interfere with daily life, consider seeing your doctor, she says.
Dr. O’Keefe suggests seeing your doctor if:
- You have heartburn more than 2 times per week
- Your heartburn wakes you from sleep
- Your heartburn becomes more severe with time
- It’s difficult or painful to swallow
- Your heartburn negatively impacts daily life
“The sooner we diagnose GERD, the better we’ll be able to intervene and manage symptoms,” said Dr. O’Keefe. “Treatments vary between lifestyle changes in diet, medication, and, in rare cases, surgery.”
Find relief at Mon Health Digestive Care & Gastroenterology
Millions of Americans are diagnosed with digestive disorders such as GERD each year. If you’re suffering from uncomfortable symptoms, schedule an appointment with our highly trained experts who specialize in diagnosing and treating a wide range of digestive and gastrointestinal issues. Call 304-598-2700 to schedule an appointment today.
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