Heartburn can be caused by your diet, but doctors say if you’re having frequent heartburn you could be at risk for a serious condition.
Dr. Nick Sharma, a gastroenterologist on the medical staff of Lee Health says, each year 9 million people see their doctor complaining of heartburn and are diagnosed with GERD. “GERD is a common medical condition that occurs when you get reflux of stomach contents up into the esophagus, with or without tissue damage. Heartburn is just one symptom of GERD.”
Heartburn happens when reflux and stomach acid rise up into the esophagus causing the chest to burn. In addition to having heartburn, patients with GERD may also experience difficulty swallowing, food regurgitation, nausea, or belching after meals. “25 percent of adults will have one symptom of GERD every month. Up to 12 percent have a symptom every week, and five percent have symptoms daily,” said Dr. Sharma.
The cause can vary among patients. “If we have someone who is overweight, they are going to have more pressure. They’re going to have reflux of acid. If you’re a smoker, if you drink alcohol, if you drink caffeine excessively, take certain medications,” said Dr. Sharma.
Some patients have abnormalities like a lower esophageal cincture pressure, which causes them to have reflux. Doctors say it’s important patients don’t ignore their symptoms. “If you have chronic GERD symptoms six months or longer, the lining of your stomach may choose to travel up to your esophagus trying to protect the lower end of the esophagus. That’s a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. That can be a precancerous condition,” said Dr. Sharma.
Patients with GERD may be asked to lose weight, modify their diet, or add medication that helps reduce acid production in the stomach. Addressing the symptoms early can help protect your health.
View More Health Matters video segments at LeeHealth.org/Healthmatters/
Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health – Caring People. Inspiring Care.