A meal should be followed by a feeling of well-being—not a nasty feeling of fluid in the back of the mouth that burns.
But that’s the aftermath of many meals for people who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux.
The fluid that is refluxing (flowing backward) is actually a mix of food and stomach acid. It’s backing up into the esophagus (to the throat) from the stomach. That’s not supposed to happen. In fact, there’s a small muscle where the esophagus and stomach meet that acts like a door—a one-way door that lets food enter the stomach but then closes shut behind it. Sometimes that muscle doesn’t work right. It gets weak and doesn’t close tightly, which allows food to go in and out. This is one of the most common causes of GERD.
Ease symptoms or make repairs?
Many people with GERD turn to medications to relieve symptoms like heartburn or the bitter taste of stomach acid. Antacids, for example, work fairly fast by neutralizing (weakening) the acid in the stomach. Other medicines—like famotidine and cimetidine—work to reduce how much acid the stomach makes. So do proton pump inhibitor medications such as omeprazole, which often are taken daily and can give the esophagus time to heal if it’s been damaged by acid.
A surgery called fundoplication is another option. Here, the top of the stomach is wrapped around the bottom of the esophagus to tighten the valve area. Fundoplication is major surgery, however, and can have long-lasting side effects. An alternative surgery is TIF, or transoral incisionless fundoplication, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2007 for people with chronic GERD.
TIF allows the surgeon to reconstruct the valve endoscopically—that is, through a tube inserted through the mouth and down the esophagus. A device called EsophyX is used to make a stronger valve with the help of multiple fasteners. Although TIF requires general anesthesia, no stomach incisions are needed, which may speed recovery and reduce patient discomfort.
Talk to your doctor
If you think you might have GERD, talk to you doctor about the best treatment options for you. Need to find a doctor in the Carson Valley? Let Carson Valley Medical Center’s find-a-physician hotline do the work for you. Call 775-782-1545 today.
Sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; American College of Surgeons; World Journal of Surgery, Vol. 32, No. 8