If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, then you know it’s a life-altering condition. Many people with GERD struggle to control their symptoms. Some find success via diet and other lifestyle changes, and others find medications to be effective. For some, surgery is an option.
But how do you know if GERD surgery is right for you? Read on to learn more about his condition and explore whether you should pursue surgery.
What is GERD?
In short, GERD is the diagnosis of frequent acid reflux, or heartburn. That is,when stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus (the tube connecting your mouth and stomach). This backwash irritates the lining of your esophagus—and can make you extremely uncomfortable or worse.
Specific symptoms of GERD include:
- A burning sensation or pain in your chest, usually after eating, which might be worse at night
- Difficulty swallowing
- Presence of sour liquid or slight regurgitation of food in your throat
- The sensation of having a lump in your throat
Many people experience acid reflux from time to time. GERD is diagnosed when mild reflux happens at least twice a week, or moderate to severe reflux occurs at least once a week.
How is GERD treated?
GERD treatment falls into three main categories: lifestyle changes, medication and surgery.
Lifestyle changes can help some people avoid GERD symptoms. Changes include losing weight, avoiding fried foods, limiting alcohol and/or not going to sleep right after a big meal.
Medication is appropriate for many GERD sufferers. The most common GERD medications are proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which reduce the amount of acid in the stomach. PPI drugs are available over the counter (OTC) or by prescription. While they can help many GERD sufferers, prolonged use can have negative side effects such as vitamin deficiency, increased risk of kidney or cardiovascular disease, dementia or even stroke. It’s important to discuss dosage and frequency with a doctor.
Surgery is sometimes recommended for more serious cases of GERD. In general, doctors will consider these questions t o help determine if surgery is right for you:
- Have you attempted lifestyle changes?
- Have you tried medication but continue to have symptoms?
- Are you experiencing additional symptoms such as asthma, hoarseness, cough, chest pain or aspiration?
- Have you experienced any complications from GERD such as Barrett esophagus or peptic stricture (a narrowing or tightening of the esophagus that causes swallowing difficulties)?
If the answer to one or more of the above questions is yes, your doctor may recommend surgery for your GERD. Your doctor can talk to you about surgical options including incision-less surgery and other less invasive procedures.