Treatment Options for GERD
What happens if GERD is left untreated?
Chronic, prolonged exposure to reflux may result in inflammation, irritation or swelling of the esophagus. This condition, known as esophagitis, can be accompanied by more concerning complications such as ulcers, hemorrhage or precancerous cellular changes.
While symptoms alone can significantly interfere with one’s quality of life, GERD is also associated with the development of Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that causes a cellular change in the lining of the lower esophagus. In a percentage of patients, it can progress to esophageal cancer, a potentially life-threatening illness. To avoid this and additional potential complications, it is important to take GERD symptoms seriously and seek evaluation and diagnosis from a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Depending on the severity of symptoms, treatment options for GERD may involve:
- Diet and lifestyle changes
- Medications, OTC and prescribed
- TIF procedure
- Conventional anti-reflux surgery
Diet and lifestyle changes
For mild GERD sufferers with infrequent symptoms of reflux, simple dietary and lifestyle changes may be enough to provide some relief. Losing weight, reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption, and altering eating and sleeping patterns can also help.
Three types of medicines are commonly used to suppress stomach acid and prevent complications of GERD:
- H2-receptors (H2RAs)
- Oroton pump inhibitors (PPIs)
PPIs (such as Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix and Nexium) are the most effective in reducing heartburn and reflux symptoms. They work by suppressing stomach acid production, but they do not address the root cause of abnormal reflux: the esophageal valve isn’t working properly. Since PPIs don’t cure reflux, many people find that they are dependent on taking increased doses multiple times per day to get symptom relief.
Overuse of PPIs increases the likelihood of infections, dementia, osteoporosis, kidney disease and esophageal cancer, as well as an increased risk of both acute and chronic kidney disease, hypomagnesemia, C. difficile infection, and osteoporotic fractures.
Depending on the severity of your GERD, you may qualify for the TIF procedure. Visit our TIF procedure page to find out more about the surgical option.