How to tell if you’re suffering from heartburn or GERD.
Each one of us has had heartburn at some point in our life. Remember the football season-classic heartburn trifecta—chicken wings, pizza and beer? However, heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be the indication of a medical condition called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease aka ‘GERD’ or ‘acid reflux’. The simple explanation for GERD is when stomach acid comes back up (reflux) into the esophagus—the food pipe or the back of the throat. Over the years we have seen a tremendous increase in the incidence in GERD, likely due to dietary and lifestyle changes – at least in part.
The good news is that today we have effective medications to control the symptoms of GERD for most of us (Zantac, Pepcid, Prilosec, Nexium, Dexilant –to name a few). The bad news is that GERD can progress to Barrett’s Esophagus, which is pre-cancerous. Even if one’s symptoms are controlled with medicines he or she can have Barrett’s Esophagus, which can then progress to esophageal cancer.
Although advances in treatment of GERD have brought relief for millions in the USA, I am concerned that the availability of these medicines is giving consumers a false sense of security and therefore not seeking medical attention.
My two-cents is that every patient with GERD should have an endoscopy to make sure that he or she does not have Barrett’s Esophagus—or esophageal cancer—even if symptoms are improved with medications.