Many of the new changes brought on by chronic acid reflux have the power to alter or even take over our lives. If you’ve noticed that what used to be occasional reflux is now creeping more steadily into your life and impacting your daily activities, you may be experiencing the signs of GERD, a more serious condition that stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease.
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Since it was unanimously approved by the FDA in 2012, the LINX® Reflux Management System has struggled to gain private insurance coverage. Still, there have been some big advances that makes us hopeful — here’s what we know so far.
Education is key to managing any condition, especially one like GERD, so here are some questions you should be asking during your consult to make sure you’re well on your way to understanding the diagnosis, treatment, and management stages of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
The most commonly used way to treat acid reflux is often through medication, be it over the counter or prescription, and that works fine for situational or occasional reflux. For chronic reflux that’s caused by a condition like GERD, however, medication is simply a short-term band-aid. PPI’s alleviate the symptoms of GERD, but they don’t treat the root cause. The best way to effectively treat GERD and relieve symptoms on a long-term basis is anti-reflux surgery.
Treatment options vary largely on a patient-per-patient basis, and it’s possible that you’re stuck between deciding whether to get anti-reflux surgery or commit to a life of PPI use. Here are some signs that the surgery might be a better fit for you:
1. You are sick and tired of dealing with acid reflux symptoms: Symptoms of acid reflux can be extremely pesky and painful. They may stop you from enjoying your favorite foods, or they may disrupt a good night’s sleep. Heartburn is the most common symptom, and it can be a problem at any time. Other symptoms include chest pain, regurgitation, bloating, cough, hoarseness, tooth enamel decay, and asthma.
2. You’ve tried medication and are still dealing with symptoms: Acid reflux treatment comes in a variety of different forms, but the most common form is medication. Common medications for acid reflux include Nexium, Protonix, Pepcid, Zantac and more. Sometimes chewable antacids are recommended such as Tums or Rolaids. However, these medications only address the symptoms of GERD, they do not tackle what causes acid reflux, the malfunctioning of the lower esophageal sphincter. If you take these medications and still experience heartburn or other symptoms, then it may be time to consider anti-reflux surgery.
3. Your Acid-Reflux medication is too expensive: Every year in the United States patients spend over $10 billion on acid-reflux medication. In particular, prescription drugs like Nexium can be very costly, and especially if it isn’t working and you still need to purchase over the counter supplements. Because these medications offer only short-term solutions to symptoms, the costs go on indefinitely. Acid-Reflux surgery offers a long-term solution to the problem of GERD, and therefore is a one time expense.
4. You have osteoporosis and heartburn: Prescription reflux medications are called Proton Pump Inhibitors or (PPIs). According to Dr. Rolando Sanchez, the active ingredients in PPIs “turn off acid producing cells in the stomach, to put it in layman’s terms.” However, by limiting the amount of acid that is in your stomach, these medications can make it harder to break down certain nutrients and cause malabsorption. One of the main nutrients affected by PPIs is calcium. If a patient does not absorb enough calcium, then they can develop osteoporosis or weak bones and an increased risk of fractures. If you have osteoporosis and GERD, then you may want to consider surgery as an alternative to medicine. That way, your osteoporosis won’t get any worse.
5. You have anemia and heartburn: In the same way that PPIs affect calcium absorption, they have also been shown to affect iron absorption. This iron deficiency is a form of malnutrition and can cause anemia, or low red blood cell count. Anemia causes patients to feel fatigued, have headaches, increased heart rate, dizziness and shortness of breath. If you struggle with iron-deficiency or anemia as well as acid reflux, then it may be wise to consider surgery in lieu of medication. PPI medications also affect magnesium and B12 absorption. These are two other vital minerals for the body that require stomach acid as a breakdown agent.
6. You miss your favorite foods: If you struggle with GERD, then you may have to abstain from spicy foods, coffee, foods containing grease, some fruits, tomato sauce, etc. Eating these foods can cause patients with GERD to experience painful symptoms, however, some of these foods are delicious! If you would like to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning without having to pop a pill, or have a nice Thai red curry meal without having to keep antacids in your pocket, then perhaps it is time to consider getting acid reflux surgery.
Types of Acid Reflux Surgeries
The Tampa Bay Reflux Center offers three anti-reflux procedures for patients: the LINX procedure, the TIF/Esophyx procedure, and Lap Nissen Fundoplication. If you would like to learn more about these treatment methods then you can schedule an appointment here.
There are many different ways to treat GERD, but anti-reflux surgery is by far the best way to efficiently relieve symptoms long-term because it’s the only method that actually treats the root cause of your GERD. Surgery is a scary word, but the anti-reflux surgeries we perform at Tampa Bay Reflux Center are minimally invasive, and the positive impacts they’ll have on your overall health and quality of life are well worth it. Getting anti-reflux surgery will change your life in a number of ways, but here are five key areas of your life where you’ll see the impacts: