Heartburn: the acid connection

Most of us have had heartburn, that painful or burning sensation in the upper part of the stomach, at some point in our lives. Frequent heartburn is a symptom of a medical condition called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called reflux disease).

Dr. Armstrong explains that GERD occurs when your stomach contents wash up (reflux) into your esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach). This happens when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle ring at the bottom of your esophagus, does not stay tight enough to keep the stomach contents in the stomach where they belong.

The contents of your stomach are highly acidic. It's the stomach acid that causes the symptoms of GERD, including heartburn, acid regurgitation, chest pain, and disturbed sleep. And it's the stomach acid that can eventually damage the delicate tissues in the esophagus. Over the long term, GERD can lead to complications, including a condition called Barrett's esophagus, which increases the risk of developing cancer of the esophagus.

Acid suppression is the process of using medications to reduce acid secretion in the stomach. It can help make the stomach contents less acidic so that they cause less damage when they wash up into the esophagus. This translates into relief of heartburn symptoms. It also helps prevent and heal esophagus damage caused by GERD. In Dr. Armstrong's experience, most people find that heartburn and other GERD symptoms will disappear almost completely with acid suppression.

Dr. Armstrong also points out that although acid suppression relieves symptoms and prevents damage, it doesn't make the disease (GERD) go away. People with severe or frequent symptoms are likely to need long-term acid suppression treatment.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Heartburn-A-Doctors-Perspective

What to expect from heartburn treatment

Dr. Armstrong offers his insights into what a person should expect from their heartburn treatment.

What should people expect from their heartburn treatment?

Dr. Armstrong has found that in his practice, most people will have almost complete symptom resolution. Other people will feel much better on their treatment, but may still be having symptoms.

He says that the number of people with complete symptom resolution could be higher than it is now. Some people improve on their treatment but still continue to suffer from some heartburn symptoms. The important thing is to tell your doctor if you are still experiencing symptoms so that they can be resolved.

How can people tell if they're getting symptom resolution?

You can tell if you're having symptom resolution when:

  • your symptoms go away completely
  • you can sleep through the night without regurgitating or choking on fluid
  • you can eat without worrying about what you're eating, when you're eating, or how much you're eating
  • you can exercise and bend over comfortably

If your symptoms are better, but you are still having problems doing the activities you enjoy, ask your doctor what can be done. It's important to know that you have options.

How long does it usually take for symptoms to resolve?

This varies from person to person. Some get better in a few days, but most people find it takes longer. It can take up to 8 to 16 weeks before you have complete symptom resolution. It's important to know that if you're not completely better after 2 weeks, this doesn't mean your treatment isn't working for you.

What should patients do if they don't get symptom resolution?

If you don't have symptom resolution, talk to doctor about it. Your doctor will reassess your symptoms and treatment. Depending on the individual person, the doctor may check to make sure your symptoms are really due to reflux disease. They may also look into changing your medication, the dose of your medication, or how you're using it.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Heartburn-A-Doctors-Perspective

Using your heartburn medication the right way

If your doctor has prescribed a heartburn medication, it's important to use it exactly as prescribed in order to get the greatest benefit. For many people with frequent or severe heartburn symptoms, this means taking the medication regularly every day, not just when they have symptoms.

Dr. Armstrong often recommends that his patients take their medication regularly each day, especially in the early phases of treatment, as this leads to much better results. Taking the medication each day ensures that it will be working for you regularly. This will aid in healing any damage you may have in your esophagus and help resolve your heartburn symptoms.

Once you have achieved symptom resolution of your heartburn, you may consider discussing "on-demand therapy" with your doctor. This means taking the medication for a few days when you need it for symptoms, and not taking the medication when you don't have symptoms. According to Dr. Armstrong, this type of treatment works best for people with infrequent symptoms (no more than a couple of times per week). People with more frequent symptoms will need to continue taking their medication regularly each day.

Frequent heartburn is a symptom of a medical condition called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). Taking a medication that provides acid suppression can help resolve your symptoms and heal damage, says Dr. Armstrong, but it won't make GERD go away. People with frequent or severe heartburn symptoms may need to continue taking their treatment regularly each day over the long term.

That's why it's so important to keep taking your heartburn medication exactly as your doctor recommends. If you have any questions about whether your treatment is working for you, how to use your treatment, or how long you may need to continue treatment, talk to your doctor.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Heartburn-A-Doctors-Perspective