Did you know that about 20% of American adults deal with episodes of acid reflux at least twice a week? Occasional instances of acid reflux can be normal, but chronic acid reflux can impact your life in negative ways, from worrying about when and what you eat to the pain and discomfort it can bring.
At Prima Medicine, with locations in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our providers specialize in helping patients with acid reflux eliminate or reduce their symptoms, so they can get back to enjoying life again. Moreover, if left untreated, acid reflux can cause serious health problems.
If you struggle with acid reflux, learn more about the condition and when it’s time to see a doctor about it.
Acid reflux 101
When acid from your stomach backs up into your esophagus — which is the long tube that runs from the back of your mouth to your stomach — you can experience a condition called acid reflux. The condition typically occurs when the valve, or sphincter, that keeps stomach acid from entering the esophagus stops working properly.
Because the soft tissues of your esophagus can’t take the harshness of stomach acid, the most common symptom of acid reflux is burning in the chest or throat. Acid reflux may also cause:
- Heartburn or chest pain
- Trouble swallowing or a feeling like there’s something in your throat
- Indigestion or stomach discomfort
Acid reflux can also cause you to get a metallic or acidic taste in your mouth.
When and why to see a doctor about acid reflux
If you get acid reflux frequently (twice a week or more), you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Schedule an appointment at Prima medicine if you notice the above symptoms twice a week or more or if you take over-the-counter antacids more than twice a week.
It’s important to see a doctor to get your symptoms under control, because if it isn’t treated, it could cause health problems, such as:
- Severe coughing upon waking
- Stomach contents entering your lungs
- Dental problems
- Asthma symptoms
- Persistent inflammation
- Ulcerations or strictures
- Precancerous changes to your esophagus
While there are treatments for acid reflux, an accurate diagnosis is key to effective treatment. Seeing a doctor can help ensure that you get the right help for your condition.
Treating acid reflux
The good news is that several treatment options exist for acid reflux. Your provider at Prima Medicine will likely begin treatment by recommending lifestyle changes to address your symptoms and the underlying problem. They may include:
- Losing weight
- Quitting smoking
- Changing your diet
In addition, using over-the-counter medications or prescription medications, such as H2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors, may help prevent acid reflux by reducing the amount of acid your stomach produces.
Your provider may also recommend that you avoid lying down for 2-3 hours after eating to decrease the risk of stomach acid backing up into your esophagus.
Sometimes, medications and lifestyle changes aren’t enough to end acid reflux. In this case, your Prima Medicine provider may refer you for a surgical consultation to repair the sphincter at the bottom of your esophagus.
If you’re struggling with frequent acid reflux, don’t ignore it. To get help, book an appointment online or over the phone with Prima Medicine today. We also offer telemedicine appointments.