Diagnosing a chronic condition like GERD, and more importantly learning how to treat or live with it, can be a long and complicated procedure. The first step is fairly simple: schedule an appointment with a reflux specialist, someone well-versed in all things GI who will be able to walk you through symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, etc. After that, there are a number of stages you’ll need to be prepared for. Before you set foot in a room with your reflux specialist, here’s what you should be prepared to discuss.
What are your goals?
Many of our patients walk through the doors with the same disease, but their goals aren’t always the same. Everyone is looking for something different when they come to their appointment. For some patients it’s a discussion on diagnosis and treatment options, some people are looking for short-term alleviation of symptoms while others are interested in long-term solutions for their GERD. A number of patients are simply looking for education about their condition and tips for managing it. Understand your end goals, whatever they may be, before you show up for your first appointment with a reflux specialist. It will go a long way towards tailoring the discussion for your specific wants and needs!
What are your symptoms?
You’ve taken the first step of setting up an appointment with a specialist, now you need to effectively be able to communicate why. Symptoms are crucial in determining what underlying conditions to test for, as well as what types of diagnostic tests you should undergo. Make a running list of symptoms that you’ve been experiencing and bring it with you to your appointment. Even if you’re not sure whether something is technically a symptom, right it down and ask your doctor about it. While many symptoms of GERD are very obvious, silent reflux symptoms (LPR) are often trickier to pick up on. Familiarize yourself with common GERD symptoms and common LPR symptoms before your appointment, and be sure to let your doctor know exactly what symptoms you’ve experienced in the past.
What are your next steps?
Understanding your end goals and discussing your symptoms will make the next phase of the appointment much easier: identifying your next steps. If GERD is suspected, it’s likely that you’ll undergo one or more tests in order to diagnose the condition. There are a number of tests used to diagnose GERD, all of which we perform here at Tampa Bay Reflux Center. Which tests we use is based off each patient’s individual case and the severity of their symptoms, and your specialist will help you determine which diagnostic test is best to use for your specific case.
What are your treatment options?
If you do end up being formally diagnosed with GERD, talking treatment options with your reflux specialist is possibly the single most important part of the entire process. Treatment options for GERD can range from lifestyle changes and other temporary symptom alleviation methods like medication to more permanent treatment options like surgery. It’s important to talk over all of your treatment options with your doctor before making a decision.
What are your costs?
Cost is often a huge factor in determining what treatment option patients with GERD opt to pursue. While some options like lifestyle changes or medication are appealing because of their perceived low cost, it’s important to remember that these changes only help manage the frequency of your symptoms and will neither correct the root issue or result in long-term relief of symptoms. Another thing that it’s important for patients to realize is that medication as a treatment method for GERD often ends up being a life-time commitment. While your Prilosec might only cost you $15 a month, that same amount month after month for the span of 10 or 20 years really adds up. While anti-reflux surgery may seem like a higher cost up front, it’s the only treatment option available for GERD that relieves symptoms long-term by correcting the root issue – a weakened lower esophageal sphincter – and the majority of the costs are often covered by your insurance. In the long run, it’s the most effective (and often cost-efficient) form of treatment for GERD. Don’t hesitate to talk through your financial concerns with your reflux doctor, they’ll be able to give you specific information about your actual treatment costs based on your insurance coverage.
Battling GERD is a process, and from your initial consultation to your diagnosis to your implemented treatment plan and eventual recovery, it’s crucial to have a knowledgeable team supporting you and guiding you through the process from the get-go. The team at Tampa Bay Reflux Center puts patients first. We’ll walk you through each stage of the process, speak candidly with you about all of your available options, and help you pick a treatment plan that works best for your specific needs. Start the process by scheduling an appointment with one of our reflux specialists, and keep the above questions in mind before heading to your first appointment!