This is a question I get asked a lot by my San Antonio, TX patients.  Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic condition that most people experience at some point in their life.  One of the problems with reflux is that it can manifest in many different ways.  I get reflux on occasion.  For me it is usually during exercise, after a big meal or with alcohol.  I also get it during most Husker football games. The triggers are different for different people.

Symptoms of reflux vary.  As noted by the National Institute of Digestive Diseases it’s most common symptoms are:

  • burning in the chest or throat
  • chest pain
  • swallowing problems
  • dry or chronic cough
  • sour taste in your mouth
  • feeling of a lump in the back of your throat

heartburn discomfort and burningThe concern with acid reflux is the chronic damage it can cause to the lining of the esophagus.  Over time this damage can lead to esophagitis (ulceration and inflammation), stricture formation (narrowing) and Barrett’s esophagus.  Barrett’s is a precancerous change to the lining of the esophagus that if left undetected and untreated can progress to esophageal cancer.  Esophageal cancer is one of the cancers that are on the rise in our society due to the incidence of GERD.  However, if this condition is diagnosed and treated in time, this progression can usually be prevented.

There are many reasons why we get reflux.  Obesity, diet and lifestyle play a big role.  Common triggers are alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, chocolate and peppermint.  Some people have a hiatal hernia (loose group of muscles at the bottom of the esophagus) and some people just get occasional relaxations of this sphincter or group of muscles.  The end result is the same- acid and gastric juice go up into your esophagus and throat and causes symptoms.

GERD is a very common disease and we see patients in our office for this every day.  Fortunately, it is also very treatable.  Through a combination of diet and lifestyle changes, and if needed medications, it can usually be controlled very well.  In cases of big a hiatal hernia and refractory symptoms laparoscopic surgery is also an option.

If you think you may have GERD, please contact my office for an appointment online or call us at 210-615-8308 or see your gastroenterologist for evaluation.  In this day and age there is no reason to suffer from these symptoms or risk development of esophageal cancer.

Written by: Russell Dean Havranek, MD