So you're feeling some reflux. Should you pop a Tums or call the doctor? Well, it depends. Acid reflux happens when stomach acid is brought up into the esophagus, causing a burning-like sensation otherwise known as heartburn. Sounds harmless, right? Well despite how intense it sounds, acid reflex is actually a natural and common issue people deal with.
Although it’s perfectly normal for people to experience occasional reflux, especially after a big holiday meal, if you’re suffering from frequent reflux (think: multiple episodes a week) then it’s possible you may have a more serious, chronic condition called GERD.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (or GERD, as we so fondly refer to it), is a chronic condition in which patients have a weakened lower esophageal sphincter. Because the LES is relaxed, this allows stomach acid to splash back up into the esophagus and throat, resulting in frequent reflux and a number of other annoying symptoms.
Is It Normal?
So, how do you know if you are just experiencing normal, situational reflux or if your symptoms may be caused by a condition like GERD? It really has to do with how long you've been experiencing symptoms, the severity of your symptoms, and how effective treatment has been in controlling them.
If you have been experiencing heartburn after you go to a sports bar and eat two pounds of buffalo wings, then chances are you’re dealing with situational reflux. This is exactly the type of thing that causes reflux. On the other hand, if you’re noticing that you’re experiencing reflux on a regular basis several times a week, or if your reflux is accompanied by a number of other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, regurgitation, or bloating, you may want to see a reflux specialist to determine if your symptoms are the result of GERD.
If you're afraid you have been experiencing symptoms as the result of GERD, you should ask yourself these questions:
1. How long have I been experiencing symptoms?
2. Have my symptoms gotten better or worse since their onset?
3. How effective has normal treatment been?
If you found that symptoms have lasted for two weeks or more and gotten worse despite normal treatments methods such as the use of over-the-counter medications and abstaining from obvious trigger foods, then you may in fact be experiencing GERD. Even if this is the case, don't panic, treatment for GERD can be easy and very effective!
The next time you experience reflux, ask yourself those questions to determine whether it is just common, situational reflux or if you may want to consult your doctor. If you feel you may have GERD, schedule an appointment with us to discuss your symptoms. Our number one priority is to help alleviate your GERD symptoms and help you get back to your normal life.