When to Seek Treatment for Acid Reflux
GERD occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus, causing symptoms such as burning behind your breastbone, belching, an acid taste in your mouth, or swallowing difficulties. Occasional heartburn can be treated with diet and lifestyle changes, over-the-counter antacids or prescription medications, including proton pump inhibitors. However, these options can’t fix the underlying problem when a hiatal hernia is present, or if the cause is a weak, ineffective muscle at the bottom of your esophagus.
Complications of Untreated GERD
If left untreated, chronic reflux can cause painful irritation called esophagitis. It can also cause precancerous changes in the lining of the esophagus, called Barrett’s esophagus, which is believed to be a precursor to the development of esophageal cancer. In rare cases, severe reflux can cause hoarseness, permanent vocal changes, and even severe narrowing of the esophagus, called strictures.
Acid Reflux Procedures Repair Hiatal Hernias
Our surgeons also repair hiatal hernias (including a type of hiatal hernia called paraesophageal hernia), which occur when the stomach and other abdominal organs enter the chest area through the hiatus, a naturally occurring hole in the diaphragm. The presence of a hiatal or paraesophageal hernia allows acid to flow freely into the esophagus and may cause additional symptoms including nausea, vomiting, chest pain, heartburn, and difficulty swallowing.