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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Ask the doctor with Dr. Dubose Medlock, FACS

Ask the doctor
with Dr. Dubose Medlock, FACS

Now that football season has returned and tailgating, whether at the stadium, or on your own back porch waiting to watch the game on TV, many of you will find yourself experiencing heartburn. In many cases, this is a minor inconvenience and easily managed with a few antacids, but at times this can represent a serious medical issue.

Heartburn, a burning painful sensation in the upper abdomen and lower chest areas, is the most common symptom of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly referred to as GERD. Basically, some of the acid normally produced in the stomach leaks into the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. The stomach has protective mechanism to prevent injury from the acid, but the esophagus does not.

In more severe cases, the acid can injure the lining of the esophagus and produce scarring, known as strictures, which can cause difficulty swallowing, and at times, cause food to become stuck in the esophagus. At times, this can lead to the development of Barrett’s Esophagus, a precancerous condition.

Management of GERD depends on the severity of the problem. In many cases, GERD symptoms can be eliminated by weight loss (even small losses can make a big difference), avoiding overeating, not laying down immediately after eating, and not smoking (Cigarette smoking increases the risk of reflux).

Other cases can be managed by over the counter medications such as antacids or acid blockers. While these drugs can be helpful, it is important to remember that if symptoms persists or are frequent, you should see your doctor for further evaluation as inadequately treated GERD may cause significant problems.

Upper GI endoscopy (EGD) is an outpatient test frequently performed to evaluate the severity of GERD and evaluate for other complications.

Although surgery is occasionally required for adequate control, most GERD sufferers can achieve effective symptom control without surgery.

To book Dr. Medlock to speak to your church or civic group or to ask your medical questions forward your requests to “Ask the Doctor” c/o The Colletonian, 111 A East Washington Street, Walterboro, SC 29488, or via the web at colletonnewspapers@lowcountry.com .


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