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Gastroenterology Blog

Deductible Met? Schedule Your GI Screening Now.

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Wed, Nov 25, 2015 @ 1:59 PM

As the end of the year approaches, many people have met their insurance deductible, so that full insurance coverage kicks in for elective procedures. This makes it a great time to schedule medical care that is not immediately necessary. 

What Medical Procedures Should I Schedule After Hitting Deductible?

when to schedule a colonoscopy or endoscopySeeking medical care for conditions that are causing severe symptoms should not be delayed, nor should care for conditions that might worsen. For example, severe abdominal pain, left untreated, can result in a more serious problem in the not-too-distant future.

Conversely, wellness and screening procedures can safely be left for the end of the year.  Wellness visits are largely, and in most cases fully, covered by insurance.  However, diagnostic testing and treatment of conditions that are not necessarily considered emergent, like GERD, celiac's, or IBS, might be delayed for a period of time or as recommended by your physician.

Meeting deductible makes several of these diagnostic tests significantly more affordable for patients.  Examples of GI procedures that patients frequently schedule after meeting their deductible are colonoscopy and upper endoscopy.

Colonoscopy Screening Recommendations

who needs colonoscopy and whenColonoscopy is a vital screening tool for those with an increased risk of developing colon cancer and for individuals with problems impacting the colon. While a screening colonoscopy is not generally subject to the deductible, as it is a preventative procedure, diagnostic colonoscopy (used to diagnose a condition) may be subject to a deductible - even if the condition is discovered during a procedure that was originally used for screening. 

Gastroenterology Associates will review your screening/ wellness benefits and your copayments prior to the procedure, so there are no surprises for you after your procedure. We provide standard of care anesthesia services, even if some insurances do not always cover this, so there is no cost to the patient. Our patients benefit from effective and safe sedation.

Current recommendations for people over the age of 50 state that everyone receive a colonoscopy at least every 10 years. Also, higher risk groups should be screened earlier and more frequently to better prevent colon cancer. Speak with your doctor about earlier and more frequent screening if you: 

  • Are African-American
  • Have a family history of colon cancer or polyps
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Have a history of colon polyps or colon cancer

Make Your Appointment Now

Elective procedure appointments are in high demand near the end of the year and often shorter supply, because many people who have met their deductible are using this period to schedule their colonoscopy and other procedures. So, make your GI appointments sooner rather than later to secure a space in this year.

If you have met your deductible and are ready to get your colonoscopy or other elective procedure, we would be happy to schedule your appointment today. To schedule a consultation at the Gastroenterology Associates, please click below and enter your information or give us a call at (225) 927-1190.

Shedule Consultation

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: GERD, Colonoscopy, Celiac Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Endoscopic Procedures

Endoscopic Ultrasound: Gastroenterology Associates Case Studies

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Fri, Jul 10, 2015 @ 3:06 PM

Upper-GI-EndoscopyEndoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) is an outpatient, minimally invasive procedure whereby an endoscopic tube is inserted into the mouth (for an upper GI EUS) or the anus/rectum (for a lower GI EUS).  The endoscopic tube is outfitted with an ultrasound device on the tip that provides imaging from the inside of a patient, as opposed to alternative imaging measures that come from the outside of a patient inward, like X-ray, CT or PET scans, and MRIs. 

Two physicians at Gastroenterology Associates, Dr Neelima Reddy and Dr Walker McDonald, are specially trained to perform Endoscopic Ultrasound.  Because they are the only two providers of this service outside of New Orleans, patients from all over south Louisiana and even southern Mississippi come to Gastroenterology Associates to have their EUS completed.

Not only is Gastroenterology Associates a specialty group practice for digestive health, it is housed in the Digestive Health Center with Louisiana Endoscopy Center, allowing seamless provision of services to all patients under one roof.

While mostly performed in a hospital setting, we are proud to be the only center to offer this procedure in a safe and convenient outpatient setting.

Since 2009, Dr Reddy and Dr McDonald have performed EUS with various presentations in their patients.  A few of the cases for which an EUS was performed and the resulting diagnosis are shared below.

Case Study #1:

Pancreatitis-Baton-RougeA 45 year old woman was noted to have an incidental pancreatic cyst in the head of the pancreas and sent for further evaluation by EUS. At EUS examination, the entire pancreas was examined. Like most cysts, the cyst in the head was a fluid collection and not a concern. 

However during the EUS, an abnormal area was noted in the tail of the pancreas. It was found to be pancreatic cancer, confirmed by a biopsy. The results of the biopsy were obtained within minutes, even before completion of the procedure!

 The patient had an uneventful surgery and recovered well, all due to the early diagnosis of cancer, well before any symptoms occurred. This is not true of all pancreatic cancers, as the course of the diagnosis and treatment depends on the location and the stage of the tumor at diagnosis.

Case Study #2:

A 55 year old man was referred for EUS after 12 years of symptoms related to low blood sugars. He had to eat frequently or would pass out. 

After extensive testing, he was found to have high levels of insulin. While a tumor producing insulin was suspected, it could not be detected by CT scan, PET scan, or other special scans. An endoscopic ultrasound examination of the pancreas revealed a large tumor that was biopsied during the procedure.   The results were immediate and actually came back during the procedure. They confirmed the tumor to be a neuroendocrine tumor which produces excess insulin. 

The patient did well after surgery to remove the tumor and recently returned, 7 years after surgery, for his routine colonoscopy.

Case Study #3:

A small rectal cancer, noted during colonoscopy, was determined to be in a superficial stage after an EUS was performed.  The patient only underwent a minimal surgical procedure to remove the cancerous cells, rather than the more invasive and routine abdominal surgery.

Case Study #4:

Two patients presented with repeated attacks of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas), but they had no obvious cause for their condition. Both patients were referred for EUS examination of the pancreas to find a potential cause of recurrent pancreatitis.

One patient was noted to have sludge or small stones in the gallbladder which had not been detected by routine ultrasound. These were removed in surgery in order to prevent further attacks of pancreatitis. 

The other patient was determined to have a small tumor, noted in EUS and biopsied. That patient was subsequently sent for surgery to remove the tumor.

Endoscopic Ultrasound In Baton Rouge, Louisiana

For many patients suffering with abdominal pain or uncertain previous test results, the mental anguish can be even more difficult to endure than the physical pain.  The arsenal of procedures, expert physicians, and state-of-the-art facilities available at Gastroenterology Associates enable many unanswered questions to come to resolution and to chart a course of action for treatment.

One such procedure is the Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS). , EUS is the standard of care in the local staging of most digestive cancers, such as esophageal, stomach, pancreas, or rectal cancers. Numerous conclusive diagnoses have been made for patients via EUS at Gastroenterology Associates and resulted in positive outcomes. 

If ongoing abdominal pain or problems that have yet to be identified are an issue for you, schedule a consult with Gastroenterology Associates. Our physicians will determine if EUS or other tests would be appropriate for you. They want to help their patients have the best digestive health and to see them get well. To schedule a consult, call 225.927.1190 or use the online form in the button below.

Schedule A Consultation Gastroenterology Associates

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Gastroenterologists, Endoscopic Procedures

Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) in Baton Rouge: Only at Gastroenterology Associates

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Jun 29, 2015 @ 3:56 PM

Dr Walker McDonald and Dr Neelima Reddy of Gastroenterology Associates are the only specialists to provide endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) in the Baton Rouge area. This minimally invasive procedure is extremely useful for evaluating and diagnosing a range of conditions, including cancers of the esophagus, lung, pancreas or stomach, colon, ampulla, and rectum.  If you need an endoscopic ultrasound, then the physicians at Gastroenterology Associates will take care of you throughout the process, from initial consult through the procedure to follow up care.

What is EUS?

Labelled_dig_tractAn endoscopic ultrasound is a procedure that doctors use to examine your upper or lower digestive tract. The endoscopist passes a flexible tube, known as an endoscope, into the mouth for an upper EUS or the anus for the lower EUS. A tiny ultrasound probe that is built into the endoscope creates images of the internal organs, allowing the doctor to look for abnormalities.

Who Needs EUS and Why?

EUS is a useful technique for diagnosing many conditions. If you have symptoms, such as abdominal pain or unintended weight loss, then your doctor might recommend an EUS to find out what the problem is. 

EUS is the current standard of care for local staging to evaluate the depth of tumors or involvement of the surrounding lymph nodes or blood vessels. Determining if surgery is appropriate, for many digestive tract cancers such as those of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, or rectum, can also be accomplished with an Endoscopic Ultrasound. Surgeons and oncologists frequently request this test for additional insight on a patient before starting treatment.

Gastroenterology Associates is a “one stop shop” for patients, providing all the tests needed for diagnosis and staging, under one roof, in a timely and convenient manner. Some of the comprehensive tests include endoscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan, labs, and EUS.

We receive referrals from other physicians and facilities in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Iberia, St. Francisville, and Hammond to provide Endoscopic Ultrasound for their patients. Prior to initiation of this service in 2009 by Dr. Reddy, all local and regional patients needing and EUS were referred out of town.

Some of the conditions an EUS evaluates are:

  • Cancers of the esophaguslungpancreasstomachcolonampullagallbladder and rectum
  • Lymphoma, or evaluation of enlarged lymph nodes in the chest (mediastinum), around the lungs/ airway (this is a safe, quick and easy procedure compared to a complicated surgical procedure called mediastinoscopy for sampling these lymph nodes next to the heart and lungs)
  • Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition caused by long standing acid reflux/ heartburn
  • Neuroendocrine tumors, special tumors that may produce hormones and symptoms or may be cancerous, difficult to be diagnosed by other tests
  • Acute or recurrent Pancreatitis from unknown cause when a cause needs to be identified for pancreatitis or
  • Chronic pancreatitis where damage occurs from alcohol abuse
  • Pancreatic cysts, which may sometimes be precancerous
  • Bile duct stones, gallstones, tumors of the bile duct causing jaundice
  • Rectal fistulas
  • Fecal incontinence to evaluate for tears in the anal sphincter, resulting in stool leakage or accidents

It can also be used to take a closer look at lumps and lesions that have been picked up by other tests. Because ultrasound can see through tissue, EUS can also be used to look at organs that are near the digestive system, including the lungs, liver, pancreas, gall bladder, and bile duct in the upper GI tract and the bladder, uterus, ovaries, and prostate gland in the lower GI tract.

How to Prepare for EUS

To allow doctors to get a clear view of your digestive tract during EUS, the relevant organs need to be empty of food and water. If you are having an endoscopic ultrasound of the upper gastrointestinal tract, in which the scope is inserted through the mouth, then you need to avoid eating or drinking for roughly six hours before the procedure. Follow your doctor’s instructions regarding exactly when you need to start fasting. For lower EUS, in which the endoscope is inserted via the anus, your doctor will prescribe a colonic cleansing solution, laxatives, and a fasting schedule to prepare your system for the procedure. Follow the instructions exactly as your doctor prescribes to make sure your system is clear before the procedure.

In general, you can take medications as usual right up to the day of your procedure. However, there are a few exceptions, such as anticoagulants and insulin, which need to be adjusted so you can stay safe during the procedure. Let your doctor know exactly which medications you are taking so he or she can recommend a suitable adjustment. You also need to let your doctor know if you are allergic to latex, as some of the standard equipment can contain latex. As long as you let your doctor know everything you are taking and any allergies, it will usually be possible to make adjustments so you can safely have the procedure.

What to Expect During EUS

Upper_EUS_ASGE_largerMost people receive a sedative to help them relax during EUS. Sedation is done to ensure the efficacy of the physician and to assist patient’s relaxation during the EUS, which usually takes less than an hour and is only mildly uncomfortable. Simple benign lesions such as nodules in the esophagus or stomach may only need a few minutes to be diagnosed, sometimes without a biopsy. Should there be a need for a biopsy or drainage of a lesion, the procedure may take up to one or two hours to complete.

Passing an endoscope into the mouth and down the throat won't interfere with your ability to breathe, as the tube is very thin and flexible. The endoscopist will ensure that you remain safe and comfortable throughout the procedure.

After EUS

If you are sedated for your procedure, then you need to wait in the recovery area until the medication wears off before you can go home. Your throat might be a little sore if you have an upper EUS. In addition, you might feel bloated for a while after the procedure. Your doctor will let you know how the procedure went, but you might have to wait for a few days for results if you had a biopsy.

Complications of EUS

Complications of EUS are rare, but it's important to understand what the risks are before the procedure. Occasionally, patients react to the sedatives that are given. Infection, bleeding, damage to the lining of the intestine are fortunately rare complications. Most patients experience nothing more than a sore throat after upper EUS or minimal bleeding after a biopsy, as with other routine procedures like colonoscopy. These usually resolve quickly without requiring further treatment.

It is an outpatient procedure from which quick and complete recovery before discharge is expected. You may return to your activities the next day.

EUS at Gastroenterology Associates

Dr Walker McDonald and Dr Neelima Reddy have many years of experience of performing EUS. The specialized training for the procedure and the expert care in all other areas of gastroenterology from all 17 physicians means that patients have access to the largest and most complete care specifically for the digestive system.  

The Digestive Health Center houses Gastroenterology Associates and the Louisiana Endoscopy Center, so the procedure can take place in the convenience of the location at 9103 Jefferson Hwy in Baton Rouge.  By choosing Gastroenterology Associates for your endoscopic ultrasound in Baton Rouge, LA, you can be sure that you are in safe hands and will receive the most comprehensive and experienced care.

Schedule A Consultation Gastroenterology Associates

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Gastroenterologists, Endoscopic Procedures

Schedule Your 2014 Health Appointments Now!

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Thu, Nov 06, 2014 @ 3:42 PM

scheduling_health_appointmentsAs the end of the year approaches, it is the ideal time to make health care appointments, either for your annual wellness physical or for treatments and services for which a deductible must be met. November and December are often the months of the year when patients and families finally meet their health insurance deductibles.  However, these two months are often the busiest with holidays, family, and travel absorbing a bulk everyone’s free time.  So, Gastroenterology Associates encourages everyone to try to get in to their health related appointments sooner rather than later. Now is an excellent time to make your gastroenterology appointments for colonoscopy, upper endoscopy for reflux, or other elective procedures.

Things to Do Once Your Deductible is Met

Virtually all health insurance plans have an annual deductible which must be paid out by the patient or family before full health insurance benefits activate.  Most insurance plans roll over in January, and the deductible “banks” reverts back to $0.  For this reason, many people seek to have more expensive, elective procedures done once the deductible has been met.

As people receive necessary medical care throughout the year, most or all of the deductible is usually met by October or November. As a result, November and December are an excellent time to get routine appointments out of the way. Appointment availability is typically best during November, because doctors travel and visit family in the month of December as well, reducing the number of available appointments.

Medical issues which could be serious or may become worse over time should not be put off for any reason and medical care should be sought regardless of having met a deductible or not. The risks and costs of putting off any necessary treatments far outweigh the savings and will likely multiply with lack of treatment.  Ignoring new symptoms can significantly impact the ability of any health care professional to care for and treat the condition casing the ailment.

However, elective procedures for problems which are not immediately pressing can be pushed to the end of the year when deductibles are met and payment for these procedures are a bit easier. Many people wait until their deductible is met to schedule several elective procedures, like:

  • Diagnostic colonoscopy
  • Upper endoscopy for reflux
  • Mammogram
  • Annual skin cancer evaluation
  • Annual physical, bloodwork, and EKG
  • Physical Therapy
  • Allergy Testing

Screening vs. Diagnostic Colonoscopy

Colonoscopy is one of the most important preventative and diagnostic procedures for detecting and treating colon cancer and other gastrointestinal conditions and diseases.  Not all colonoscopies are the same, however, in purpose, and they are billed accordingly. When it comes to costs, it is helpful to understand the distinction between diagnostic and screening colonoscopy.

A screening colonoscopy is considered preventative wherein the patient undergoes the colonoscopy in the absence of indicative signs or problematic symptoms (of which there are usually few with colon cancer).  The purpose of the screening colonoscopy is to test for colorectal cancer or polyps. The intent of the screening colonoscopy is not changed if polyps or colorectal cancer is found, and it will still be billed as a screening colonoscopy.  After the passing of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicare and many health insurance companies are required to cover preventative, scheduled screenings without a co-pay or deductible. 

Diagnostic colonoscopy is any colonoscopy done for the purpose of diagnosing specific signs or symptoms or for further exploration of an abnormal finding. Several of the reasons a patient might be referred for a diagnostic colonoscopy include:

  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Blood in the Stool
  • Iron Deficency Anemia with unknown cause
  • Bowel habit Changes
  • On-going and Persistant Abdominal Pain
  • Other Reasons

Biopsies may be taken or polyps are removed during this procedure and the resulting lab work is also considered diagnostic. Diagnostic colonoscopies costs aren’t waived by Medicare or third-party payors like screening tests are, and if a patient’s deductible is met, a screening colonoscopy is much more affordable.

To schedule your consultation, colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, or any other gastroenterological treatment, please contact the largest, most experienced group of gastroenterologists in Baton Rouge - Gastroenterology Associates - by clicking below and entering your information or calling (225) 927-1190.  So, schedule your 2014 health appointments now!

Schedule A Consultation Gastroenterology Associates

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Colonoscopy, Gastroenterologists, Endoscopic Procedures

What is Esophageal Stricture and How is it Treated?

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 @ 10:12 AM

esophageal stricture

Tightness in the throat is a familiar sensation for some.  It can be an uncomfortable, painful, and even frightening feeling.  Sometimes, the tightness is short-lived and may be attributed to anxiety or an allergic reaction.  However, persistent tightness that worsens over time may be the result of esophageal stricture.   Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) may cause damage to the esophageal tissue over time, resulting in a buildup of scar tissue that makes swallowing progressively more difficult.

Even in the case of benign esophageal stricture, treatment should still be sought.  Not only will the tightness worsen over time, but the underlying issue that is leading to your throat tightness and pain should be addressed as well.  Here are some of the common tests used to diagnose esophageal stricture, as well as the most common and effective forms of treatment:

Diagnosing Esophageal Stricture

  • Barium Swallow – After swallowing barium, x-rays are taken to show the narrowing of the esophagus
  • Endoscopy – A thin scope with light and camera, known as an endoscope, is guided into the esophagus in order to visualize the narrowing.  This procedure is generally performed under a sedative and local anesthetic.

Treating Esophageal Stricture

  • Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) – These medications are typically used to treat the most common cause of esophageal stricture:  GERD.   By alleviating the symptoms of GERD, they are thereby able to reduce the pain, inflammation, and irritation in the throat.
  • Dilation – In this procedure, the esophagus is dilated through one of many possible methods, such as using a weighted dilator passed through the mouth and into the esophagus.  This treatment is typically performed either with sedation or a local anesthetic.  Depending on the severity of the stricture, it may need to be performed multiple times.
  • Surgery – In rare cases in which the stricture cannot be adequately dilated or strictures continue to return after repeated dilations, surgical treatment may be necessary.

Once treated, the prognosis of esophageal strictures is quite good.  While some may return and require subsequent treatment, most patients may resume their normal diet and routine.  In order to prevent the initial development of esophageal strictures, there are some precautionary measures that you can take. Use caution to avoid accidental ingestion of corrosive substances, and if you suffer from frequent or prolonged heartburn, see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment of GERD.  If the appropriate steps are taken to prevent esophageal stricture or to treat it once it occurs, the condition should have minimal impact.

If you experience difficulty swallowing and inflammation or irritation of the throat, it may be time to speak with a specialist about the possibility of esophageal stricture.  At Gastroenterology Associates, we have several physicians who are qualified in the identification and treatment of the condition.  Simply click here to request an appointment, or call our office directly at (225) 927-1190.

6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Esophagus, Endoscopic Procedures

7 Symptoms of Acid Reflux

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Jun 24, 2013 @ 9:52 AM

symptoms of acid reflux

Most people have experienced the symptoms of heartburn at one time or another.  Perhaps you ate too much just before bed and awoke to a burning sensation in your chest.  You may have even had some regurgitation of stomach acid into your throat and mouth.  While unpleasant, these symptoms are easily treated with antacids or home remedies for most.  It’s only an occasional occurrence and is given little thought after the discomfort passes.  However, for sufferers of acid reflux disease, these symptoms and others can become a regular occurrence. 

When heartburn becomes more persistent, occurring two or more times a week, or if it is resistant to medications, it’s time to see a specialist.  Additionally, there are several other symptoms that may suggest acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  While these symptoms may not be as disruptive as heartburn, they also point to this chronic digestive disorder and should be addressed.

1.   Bloating and Belching

Frequent swallowing is common with a sore throat or when stomach acid begins to back up into the esophagus.  This made lead to swallowing more air, a feeling of being bloated, and frequent belching.

2.   Nausea

Some individuals with GERD may not experience heartburn at all.  Rather, they may experience symptoms such as nausea and even severe chest pains.

3.   Chest Pain

Chest pain in association with GERD is caused when stomach bile enters the esophagus.  This pain can sometimes be so severe that it is mistaken for a heart attack. It is critical that chest pain is never ignored and that medical attention is sought immediately when it occurs.

4.   Coughing and Wheezing

Respiratory symptoms are somewhat common with GERD.  Irritation to the throat and even stomach acid making its way into the lungs can lead to a chronic cough or wheezing.

5.   Difficulty Swallowing

Difficulty swallowing, or dysphagia, can appear when the continuous cycle of acid reflux causes scarring and narrowing of the esophagus.  Swallowing can become painful, and sufferers may feel as though they have a lump in their throat.

6.   Sore Throat

As with chest pains or difficulty swallowing, the repeated damage to the lining of the esophagus may also cause a persistent sore throat.  This may or may not also be accompanied by hoarseness of the voice.

7.   Hiccups

Hiccups occur with involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, which separates the chest from the abdomen, and are often found in conjunction with acid reflux.

If you find that you are suffering from any of these symptoms on a regular basis, it may be time to see your physician.  Even in the absence of typical heartburn sensations, it is possible to be suffering from GERD.  A specialist such as a gastroenterologist will be able to determine if your symptoms are due to GERD and can recommend treatment options to bring relief.

If you are ready to schedule an appointment with one of the Gastroenterology Associates physicians, or you would simply like more information on this condition, please contact our office.  To learn more about GERD, you may also click the image below for our free guide.

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Topics: Acid Reflux, Gastroenterologists, GERD, Endoscopic Procedures

The Short & Long Term Effects of GERD

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 @ 9:51 AM

effects of gerd

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, causes both short-term symptoms and long-term effects. Taking steps to manage GERD can reduce the risk of long-term complications, as well as providing short-term relief from symptoms. If you are suffering from GERD, don't try to ignore it: seek medical advice to prevent serious complications arising later.

Short-Term Effects of GERD

The main symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease is heartburn that occurs at least twice a week. You would feel this heartburn as a burning pain behind your breast bone and in your upper abdomen, which is the result of stomach acid spilling out of the stomach into the esophagus.

Not everyone who suffers from GERD has heartburn; other symptoms, which are especially common in children, include the following:

•             Dry cough

•             Difficulty swallowing

•             Asthma-like symptoms

If you have GERD, you may also feel nauseous, or have a sore throat or bad breath.

Long-Term Effects of GERD

Untreated gastroesophageal reflux disease can lead to esophagitis - inflammation of the esophagus. Stomach acid is very irritating to the lining of the esophagus and can cause long-term damage. Over time, you could develop a painful ulcer.

Bleeding of the esophagus is a common long-term complication of GERD. Over a long period of time, the continuous loss of blood can lead to anemia. Stools that are very dark in color can be a warning sign of internal bleeding.

A serious, although relatively rare, complication of esophagitis is that scar tissue - known as strictures - can narrow the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow. Strictures may need to be treated by inserting an endoscope into the esophagus and inflating a balloon to dilate the passage so that food can pass through.

 

Barrett's esophagus is a serious potential consequence of gastroesophageal reflux disease. In this condition, the cells in the esophageal lining change to become more like cells in the intestines. Barrett's esophagus can develop into esophageal cancer, which can be fatal.

Treatment and Prevention of GERD Symptoms and Complications

If you are diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, your doctor will probably make several recommendations to reduce your symptoms and protect you from developing complications. You may be told to make the following changes to your diet and lifestyle:

•             Stop smoking.

•             Cut down on alcohol.

•             Lose weight if obese.

•             Eat smaller meals.

•             Eat meals that are less high in fat.

•             Don't eat right before bed.

Your doctor may also prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). These drugs reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach, so the severity of your symptoms will be reduced.

If your esophagus is irritated, taking PPIs to reduce acidity can give the esophageal lining a chance to heal. In most people, the esophagus can heal itself very effectively if the source of irritation is removed.

You may also be told to take prokinetics, which cause the stomach to empty more quickly. In this way, the acid that is produced when you eat is quickly carried away from the inflamed esophagus.

In very severe cases of GERD, surgery may be required. Surgery can strengthen the sphincter at the bottom of the esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES) to prevent acid from escaping from the stomach.

By managing GERD through lifestyle changes, medication, surgery, or a combination of all three, serious complications such as Barrett's esophagus and strictures can be prevented. If you suffer from GERD, consult one of the gastroenterologists at the Gastroenterology Associates so that your condition can be properly monitored and treated.  Our doctors are board certified gastroenterologists and have extensive experience and training in the treatment of GERD.  Appointments may be made through our online request system or by calling the office.

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

Why should I visit a gastroenterologist

Topics: Gastroenterologists, GERD, Endoscopic Procedures

Acid Reflux Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Posted by Gastroenterology Associates on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 @ 9:50 AM

reasons not to ignore gerd

Acid reflux is a common problem that knows no limits of age, gender, or other demographics. Unlike general 'heartburn', acid reflux symptoms are not just caused by something you eat.

Acid Reflux Symptoms

In order to determine if you should be tested for the possibility of having acid reflux, consider the following potential symptoms:

•             Frequent heartburn - burning in the abdomen, chest, or throat

•             Bitter or sour acid taste backing up into your mouth, especially after eating

•             Hiccups that last more than a few minutes and occur frequently

•             Bloating

•             Narrowing of your esophagus that feels like food stuck in your throat (called    dysphagia)

•             Chronic, dry cough and sore throat or hoarseness

There are other symptoms, as well, but these are the most common and should lead you to pursue diagnosis from a medical professional.

How Are Acid Reflux Symptoms Diagnosed?

Doctors can use several methods to determine if you do, in fact, suffer from acid reflux disease. In many cases, simply monitoring the pH level in your esophagus will tell your doctor if your symptoms are related to acid reflux. You may also be asked to have an esophagram (in which you swallow barium as a contrast for x-ray purposes) or, in some severe cases, have an endoscopy, in which a camera is inserted into your upper digestive tract to search for a problem. During this procedure, the medical professional may also choose to take a biopsy of the tissue.

What Causes Acid Reflux Symptoms?

The technical term for the most common cause of acid reflux is 'hiatal hernia'. Within your esophagus resides a ring of muscle (or valve) know as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Typically, once food passes beyond this point, the LES closes so that acid cannot move up from your stomach into your esophagus. However, when this isn't the case, you get 'heartburn'. A hiatal hernia is when the LES and the upper part of your stomach move out of place, above your diaphragm, causing heartburn in frequency, which is then diagnosed as acid reflux disease.

Other common causes include:

•             Lying down too soon after eating

•             Eating large amounts of citrus, mint, garlicky, or spicy foods

•             Pregnancy

•             Obesity

•             Smoking

•             Taking certain types of medication (which increase acid production in the stomach)

•             Drinking alcohol, soda, tea, or coffee in large quantities

Avoiding & Treating Acid Reflux Symptoms

The first thing to do to avoid and reduce the occurrence of acid reflux, which can cause long-term issues like ulcers and even esophageal cancer, is to change your lifestyle. Some ways to help dispel the possibilities include:

•             Quitting smoking

•             Allowing at least 2-3 hours after eating before going to bed

•             Limiting spicy and acidic foods within your diet

•             Eating smaller, more frequent meals

•             Losing weight

Of course, it's also important to see your doctor about potential treatments. In severe cases, surgery may become an option, especially to repair a hiatal hernia that is a constant source of acid reflux symptoms and other pain. However, more commonly, antacids (such as Tums) purchased over the counter can combat infrequent symptoms in small quantities. You may also choose to use H2 blockers (such as Pepcid and Zantac) which decrease the production of acid.

If these aren't working, you should definitely consult with your doctor regarding prescription medications, such as Reglan, which can help to strengthen your LES, as well as cause your stomach to empty faster and therefore decrease the likelihood of acid backing up from your stomach into your esophagus.

The team of doctors at Gastroenterology Associates is extremely capable at detecting and diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease.  If you feel that you have symptoms of Acid Reflux, you should not ignore them and take action to reduce the impacts of the disease on your life and health.  Feel free to contact our staff for an appointment in our online appointment request or call us at the office.

Disclaimer: All information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the consultative advice and experienced feedback from your physician.    Always consult with your physicians on any of your questions and concerns.

6 Reasons Not to Ignore GERD

Topics: Acid Reflux, Gastroenterologists, GERD, Endoscopic Procedures