Monday, April 13, 2009

An estimated 40 percent of Americans suffer from heartburn at least once a month. If you have no relief from over-the-counter antacid or prescription medication, the problem may be more serious than you think. Dr. Edward Hill tells us more in today’s 60 Second Housecall.

Millions of people suffer from chronic heartburn, known as gastro-esophageal reflux or GERD. This occurs when acid from the stomach surges upward into the esophagus.

A muscular valve usually keeps the acid from ‘refluxing’ or backing up into the esophagus. But when this valve doesn’t work properly, reflux occurs, causing a burning sensation in the chest and esophageal area.

Besides heartburn, reflux causes indigestion, regurgitation, difficulty sleeping, hoarseness and sore throat. Eating fried, fatty and spicy foods can make symptoms worse. So can eating or drinking caffeinated foods and beverages, drinking alcohol or smoking.

Many people suffering from reflux can be helped with dietary changes. However, many patients with GERD will require medication or elect to have laprascopic reflux surgery. Through five or six small incisions, the surgeon wraps a portion of the stomach around the lower esophagus to prevent acid from flowing back up into the esophagus. For most people, relief and recovery come quickly with either medical or surgical therapy.

For North Mississippi Medical Center, I’m Dr. Edward Hill.