Monday, May 21, 2012

Do I Have a Stomach Problem?

Do I Have a Stomach Problem?

Is it Heartburn?

We all have heartburn, or acid reflux, at one time or another. It often feels like a burning sensation welling up in our chest.
Acid reflux begins at the lower end of the esophagus, a muscular ‘tube’ through which food passes into the stomach. Once the food is in the stomach, the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus contracts to prevent the back up of food and acid into the esophagus. Reflux occurs when the muscle, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, is weak or becomes relaxed, allowing liquids in the stomach to wash back into the esophagus.
It May be GERD
When the condition becomes worse or causes uncomfortable symptoms, the acid reflux is reclassified as gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD. In addition to heartburn, which is the most common symptom of GERD, less common symptoms include:
·         Stomach or chest pain
·         Chronic cough and asthma
·         Difficulty or painful swallowing
·         Persistent hoarseness or sore throat
·         Sense of a lump in the throat
·         Recurrent pneumonia
·         Chronic sinusitis.
These symptoms may however be indicative of a more serious problem and if experienced, you should see a physician.
GERD is usually diagnosed based upon symptoms. Testing is required when the diagnosis is unclear or if there are more serious symptoms such as pain when you swallow, chest pain, vomiting blood or dark-colored stool, or unexplained weight loss.
Treating the Problem
GERD is treated according to its severity. Lifestyle changes are the first things that are recommended to alleviate the symptoms. They include:
·         Weight loss
·         Raising the head of the bed six to eight inches using blocks of wood under the legs of the bed or placing a foam wedge under the mattress
·         Avoid reflux inducing foods, such as coffee, soda or drinks with caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, peppermint, and fatty foods
·         Quit smoking
·         Avoid large and late-night meals
Patients with more severe or persistent symptoms usually require treatment with medications. These include over-the-counter antacids, which are commonly used for short-term relief. Other medications, known as histamine blockers and proton pump inhibitors are stronger and generally very effective in treating GERD symptoms.

I will be writing periodically about digestive disease topics. Let us know what you would like to see discussed.


Joseph J. Herdman, MD, practices Gastroenterology at Riddle Hospital. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University and received his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College. He completed his Internal Medicine residency and Gastroenterology fellowship at Temple University Hospital.  He is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology.


At April 10, 2013 at 10:45 AM , Blogger Foam-By-Mail said...

The biggest benefit of a foam wedge is that raising one end of a bed frame can cause undue stress on the mattress, box spring, or other element of the bed, and if something happens, a warranty may not cover the damage. With a wedge, not only are you not altering the bed, you can even bring it with you if you visit somebody or even use it to relax around the house!


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