, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common illness encountered in the primary care setting. The classic symptom of heartburn occurs as a result of the reflux of excess acid produced in the stomach up into the lower portion of the esophagus. When this occurs, irritation of the mucosal lining of the esophagus can occur, resulting in inflammation and pain.
Fortunately, there are a variety of behavioral and medical interventions that are effective in treating this condition. Avoiding types of foods that provoke acid production can help, such as citrus fruits, tomato sauce, alcohol, soda and other acidic foods. As most people experience their worst symptoms in the morning (after laying flat all night), raising the head of the bed with a wedge or using an extra pillow can also be helpful. Avoiding late night meals and snacks can also help with morning symptoms. Weight loss has also been shown to be effective in curtailing symptoms.
Medications known as proton pump inhibitors are very effective in reducing the production of stomach acid. These can be purchased either over-the-counter or with a prescription from your physician. These are some of the most commonly prescribed medications in this country.
You should also talk to your primary care doctor
about this right away. If the usual conservative measures are not working to relieve your symptoms, then a referral to a specialist (i.e. gastroenterologist
) can be made.