Heartburn is far from uncommon. In fact, more than 60 million Americans have heartburn at least once a month, and 15 million Americans report symptoms of heartburn every day. Because of how common it is, many people are unaware that their heartburn symptoms could be an indicator of a serious condition.
Nirav Naik, MD, FACS, and his team at New Life Medical understand how frustrating chronic and severe heartburn can be, and they’re committed to relieving your heartburn issues.
What is heartburn?
Heartburn occurs as a result of acid reflux, which is when the acid in your stomach backs up into the tube ― called the esophagus ― that connects your mouth and stomach. Acid reflux is something that most people experience at some point. When you swallow, a band of muscle tissue at the bottom of your esophagus ― the lower esophageal sphincter ― opens to let food and liquid into your stomach, and then it tightens again.
You experience heartburn when this band of tissue relaxes or opens abnormally or becomes weak, allowing stomach acid to flow upwards. Heartburn is typically worse when lying down or bending over, and it can be triggered by spicy food, citrus, fatty food, and alcohol. While this can happen occasionally, if it happens after every meal, it could be a cause for concern.
Why can’t I control my heartburn at home?
If you’re experiencing lasting heartburn after every meal, and over-the-counter medications aren’t working, you could have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a severe form of acid reflux. With GERD, your stomach acid constantly leaks up into your esophagus, causing heartburn symptoms you can’t control at home. Besides frequent heartburn, other symptoms of GERD include:
- Dry cough
- Pain in the chest
- Trouble swallowing
- Sore throat
Major causes or risk factors for developing GERD are obesity, pregnancy, scleroderma, and hiatal hernias.
What are some complications of GERD?
If you don’t seek treatment for your chronic and persistent heartburn, you can run the risk of developing these health problems:
Esophagitis occurs when your stomach acid has caused so much irritation and inflammation that your esophagus develops ulcers. You may also experience chest pain, bleeding, and trouble swallowing as a result.
Damage from acid over time can change the lining of your esophagus. In Barrett’s esophagus, your esophagus changes, becoming more like the lining of your intestines in order to protect itself from the constant acid attacks. That may sound like a positive reaction from your body, but this change can lead to cancer in your esophagus.
Damaged and scarred lining due to stomach acid in your esophagus can cause a narrowing in your esophagus. This condition, called esophageal stricture, can interfere with your ability to eat and drink by hindering food and liquid from reaching your stomach.
What can I do about my chronic heartburn?
Fortunately, Dr. Naik is highly trained in solving heartburn problems. His philosophy is to address the cause of the problem and not simply the symptoms. After a consultation, Dr. Naik will develop a treatment plan that’s best for you. Since GERD, chronic heartburn, and the resulting complications are almost always caused by hiatal hernias, Dr. Naik may recommend heartburn surgery.
Dr. Naik is an expert in the LINX® procedure. With the LINX procedure, he uses surgical methods to repair and close the hernia, which will promote healthy functioning in the lower esophageal sphincter.
At New Life Medical, we’re always learning new and better ways to address chronic heartburn, giving you the best treatment options. When you’re ready to put out the fire in your chest and get to the bottom of your heartburn problems, call our office or schedule an appointment online.