By Gary M. Bunch, M.D., F.A.C.S. –
Heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD—these terms are inter-related, but are not similar. Heartburn is the symptom which you will feel when the acid in the stomach moves up to your esophagus. This movement is known as acid reflux which happens when there is an over-secretion of gastric juices in the stomach and the valve or LES which blocks the food and acid from coming up is not functioning properly. Prolonged exposure to acid reflux leads to GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease. To get help with heartburn it is imperative that you understand the what, why, and how of these symptom, condition and disease.
Almost everyone has experienced heartburn and acid reflux. The frequency may differ from one person to another, but the symptoms are the same. Help with heartburn is available if you know what triggers it. A full-size meal of fatty, spicy, and acidic foods prompt acid reflux and heartburn. If occurrences come far and in between, a tablet or two of antacid will relieve the pain.
Now, if you are experiencing acid reflux repeatedly, like twice in one week, chances are you are already suffering from GERD. At this stage, you need sophisticated help. You have to consult a physician because if GERD is not attended to immediately, serious consequences might happen.
Warning Signs of GERD
It is easy to get help with heartburn if you always experience acid reflux. However, heartburn is not the only symptom of GERD. A child under twelve years old can have GERD, but does not suffer from heartburn. So what signs should you watch for? If you always feel like there is food blocking your esophagus, it is likely that you have GERD. Other indications of GERD are difficulty in swallowing, unrelenting dry cough, chest pain, gruffiness of voice in the morning, and bad breath. These are some of the manifestations of GERD.
What causes GERD
Although there are a number of ways to deal with heartburn, the root cause of GERD is not clearly established. What is known is that acid reflux happens when the lower esophageal sphincter or LES is weakened and cannot function suitably in keeping food and acid inside the stomach. GERD can also occur when there are irregularities in the body like hiatal hernia. This is a medical condition where the upper portion of the stomach and LES shift over to the diaphragm. With this condition present, acid reflux will more than likely happen and can lead to GERD if left untreated.
Most susceptible to GERD are obese people, smokers and pregnant women. Inclination to fatty and fried foods, chocolates, spicy treats, garlic and onions, tomato-laden meals, mint flavorings and alcohol and caffeine-rich beverages also contribute to GERD development. Getting help with heartburn can only be effective if accompanied by dodging away from these acid reflux triggers.
Complications of Untreated GERD
Getting help with heartburn is very important in thwarting the more serious effect of GERD. If not attended to immediately, GERD can lead to some acute complications. Constant acid reflux may cause the esophagus to swell and damage the linings, leading eventually to bleedings or ulcers known as esophagitis, conditions which may require serious treatment. Although the wound will heal, the scars left can result to the narrowing of the esophagus which will impede swallowing. If help for heartburn is not applied immediately, the esophageal lining may take an irregular form and discoloration. Eventually, these scars can lead to esophageal cancer. It is a known fact also that GERD can aggravate or play a part in the development of asthma, persistent coughing and pulmonary fibrosis.
Non-invasive Treatment Now Available
GERD is often treated with lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, or a combination of these. When lifestyle changes and medications don’t eliminate the symptoms, surgery is recommended to prevent permanent damage. Until recently, GERD patients requiring surgery had to deal with incisions. Fortunately for local patients suffering with GERD, there is a non-invasive surgery now available that eliminates symptoms, erosion of the esophagus, and breathing problems associated with repeated acid reflux. This new non-invasive, relatively quick surgery procedure provides relief from acid reflux.
Many, many people suffer from GERD, and a lot of them are examined with an endoscope every year to watch for pre-malignant changes. We have a new procedure using the EsophyX device, which is placed over an endoscope and inserted down into the stomach through the patient’s mouth. The EsophyX then creates a new valve at the bottom of the esophagus. Using the endoscope, surgeons are able to perform the procedure without making any incisions, minimizing the risk for complications and recovery time.
The EsophyX procedure takes approximately thirty minutes and patients are generally free to go home the same day. Many GERD patients who have had this procedure enthusiastically report noticing positive changes within days. Following the procedure, it is highly likely that a patient who has been relying on medications to minimize effects of GERD will no longer require them. So many patients have been on these medications for twenty or thirty years, and then they get this procedure done and they say, “Wow, I should have had that done a long time ago.”
Is EsophyX the Answer for You?
The staff at Bradenton Surgical Group preforms an evaluation on each patient to determine if they are a candidate for the procedure. Generally, patients with large hiatal hernias (greater than 3.5 – 4 cenimeters) are the only patients unable to take advantage of the EsophyX procedure.
It has been my pleasure to be able to provided relief to upwards of 100 patients using the EsophyX procedure. Because of my success with the procedure, I frequently find myself in the teacher role, responsible for assisting physicians from around the country to learn how to use the EsophyX device.
Dr. Gary M. Bunch, M.D., F.A.C.S.
Gary M. Bunch, MD, FACS has over ten years of experience as a general and vascular surgeon. He is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, as well as a member of the American Society of Physicians and Surgeons, and the Manatee Medical Society. Dr. Bunch served as an associate professor of surgery at East Tennessee State University and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine. He completed his surgical residency at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis.
Bradenton Surgical Group | River Walk Professional Park 200 Third Avenue West, Suite 110 Bradenton, FL 34205 | 941-744-2700 | www.bradentonsurgicalgroup.com