Heartburn and reflux
Heartburn and reflux are conditions that commonly affect the gastrointestinal system. Reflux, also known as acid reflux, occurs when stomach acid travels back up the esophagus and into the mouth. Heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest, is a symptom of reflux.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) doctors in Palm Beach, Florida
If you're tired of experiencing reflux and want relief from your symptoms, we can help.
We know your digestive health is an essential key to overall optimal health. That's why, at HCA Florida JFK Hospital, we offer advanced diagnostic and treatment options for heartburn, reflux and GERD.
Learn more about our related specialties
Heartburn and GERD diagnostics and treatments
We offer advanced diagnostic and treatment options if you have reflux disorders such as GERD. Our services include:
- Endoscopy — A camera is placed through the mouth to visualize the esophagus, stomach and small intestine.
- Esophageal manometry — A thin, pressure-sensitive tube is passed through your mouth or nose into your stomach to measure the effectiveness of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
- pH probe test — A tube is placed in the nose and rests in your esophagus to measure the frequency and duration of acidic fluid refluxing into the esophagus.
GERD treatment options
If you are diagnosed with GERD, we will work with you to determine the best method of treatment to meet your needs. Treatment options we offer include:
Treating early-stage GERD usually centers on a combination of lifestyle and dietary changes, over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription drug regimens.
If the disease continues to progress, to correct the root cause, the LES may need to be fixed through acid reflux surgery.
Lifestyle and diet modifications
Most people with GERD find that their symptoms are more serious at night. It is recommended to elevate the upper body when lying in bed.
Smoking is a significant contributor to GERD. Smoking reduces the pressure of the lower esophageal sphincter, thereby promoting reflux. Smoking also increases the chance of developing gastric and duodenal ulcers.
Several changes in eating and lifestyle habits can be beneficial in treating GERD, including:
- Adjust medication (as advised by your doctor)
- Be more active
- Control alcohol and tobacco use
- Eat smaller, frequent meals and earlier evening meals
- Loosen clothing
- Modify sleeping position (elevate upper body)
- Reduce trigger foods, such as alcohol, caffeine and spicy, fatty and acidic foods
- Stay upright as often as possible
Often over-the-counter medications can help control and limit the symptoms associated with GERD, such as heartburn. These medications may include:
- H2 blockers, also called histamine antagonists
- Proton pump inhibitors
- Promotility drugs, such as metoclopramide
Medications can be very effective in treating mild to moderate GERD but tend to lose their effectiveness over time. They also do not treat the underlying cause of reflux: the deteriorated anatomy of the LES. Therefore, life-long medication therapy is required.
NOTE: Always talk to your doctor before taking any type of medication.
- Transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF)
- Nissen fundoplication
The difference between heartburn, acid reflux and GERD
The terms heartburn, acid reflux and GERD are often used interchangeably, but they are actually different.
Understanding each condition:
- Acid reflux is the process of stomach acid refluxing back into the esophagus. It indicates a structural problem with the LES.
- GERD is a chronic, more severe form of acid reflux. A GERD diagnosis indicates that you are experiencing acid reflux more than two times per week on a consistent basis.
- Heartburn refers to a burning sensation in the chest, but it is actually taking place in the esophagus. Heartburn is not a condition, but rather a common symptom of both acid reflux and GERD.
Symptoms of GERD
GERD is the result of a weakened LES, which acts as a "door" between the esophagus and the stomach.
Common symptoms associated with GERD include:
- Asthma, wheezing or shortness of breath
- Bad breath
- Change in sense of smell and taste
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry cough
- Frequent burping
- Heartburn and chest pain
- Hoarseness (often in the morning)
- Sensation of food stuck in the throat
- Sour or bitter taste in the mouth
- Stomach fullness or bloating
Without treatment, GERD can cause a variety of complications, including:
- Adult onset asthma
- Barrett's esophagus
- Esophageal cancer
- Esophageal stricture
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Regurgitation of acid into the lungs
- Ulcerations or bleeding
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