May 20, 2019 | By Kourtney Kemp, MD, FACS
Heartburn and diseases of the esophagus affect a large portion of the population. Maybe that includes you! They can cause burning, as well as throat clearing, throat irritation, chronic cough, swallowing difficulties and regurgitation of food and acid.
Most people have either self-medicated using over-the-counter medications or have been on prescription medications for years without a clear, identifiable cause or reason for their heartburn. Over-the-counter medications can mask the symptoms and make you feel better, but they might not be treating the cause of your heartburn. You could have chronic damage of the esophagus or esophageal cancer, and the medications can sometimes cause side effects. Here’s why.
Proton pump inhibitors, such as Prilosec, omeprazole and Pepcid, were developed in the early 1980s to treat ulcer disease in the stomach. They were never intended for heartburn or reflux into the esophagus. This reflux is usually not related to an ulcer or an acid problem, but rather to a structural problem of the valve between your esophagus and stomach. If the valve isn’t functioning well, you can still have acid reflux of contents, but it doesn’t burn as much while on antacid medications. Even while you are on medications, the progression of damage in the esophagus doesn’t stop.
Proton pump inhibitors usually are approved for up to 16 weeks of use. If you experience symptoms of heartburn longer than that, you should have a thorough evaluation. Through our new Heartburn Center, we can provide sophisticated diagnostics to uncover the REAL cause of your heartburn – and develop a customized treatment option for even the most stubborn cases.
If you suffer from heartburn or take antacids on a daily basis to relieve your symptoms, give us a call. Heartburn can be unpleasant, but if left untreated, it also can lead to serious esophageal disorders. We welcome the opportunity to help you diagnose and treat your condition.