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The Secrets of Managing GERD and Heartburn

Is it time to get serious about your GERD?

GERD Treatments: Surgery

Surgery for GERD can be effective. But because PPIs control symptoms so well, Rao says, rates of GERD surgery in the U.S. are falling rapidly.

Still, some patients -- Rao estimates less than 1% of all people with GERD -- might need it. Experts say that candidates for GERD surgery are people who

  • Get some relief from medication, but still have symptoms anyway
  • Can’t or won’t take GERD medication
  • Already have complications, like Barrett’s esophagus, from GERD

Considering that the surgery does have a small risk of serious complications, it’s crucial that you get a correct diagnosis. You’ll need an endoscopy and probably other tests to make sure that you really do have GERD. To be certain, you may also want to consider a second opinion.

Finally, when finding a surgeon, choose someone with a lot of experience doing the specific operation you need. Waring recommends that he or she have a track record of at least 200 procedures.

The Importance of GERD Treatment

If you have GERD, there are a lot of effective ways you can control it. While newer, powerful over-the-counter medicines are one option, Cheskin notes a serious downside.

“These drugs provide such effective relief that there’s much less incentive for people with undiagnosed GERD to seek medical help,” says Cheskin.

That’s a problem. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment aren’t smart. If you have GERD, you need a doctor’s help. Together you can sort out the best GERD treatment -- and make sure that you don’t have another condition altogether.

GERD sufferer Chuck Alkin, 75, agrees. “My advice to people is to get treatment early,” says the New York City resident. He developed GERD about 45 years ago, and more recently, Barrett’s esophagus. Now, he’s concerned about his increased risk of cancer.

“It took me 20 years to get a diagnosis, and I regret that,” Alkin says. “If I’d been diagnosed earlier, and gotten treatment, I don’t think I’d be in this situation now.”

* Some patient names have been changed by request.

Reviewed on January 23, 2009
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