For many, simple lifestyle changes are all that is needed
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 02/21/2013 -- It turns out that finding out whether or not one's frequent heartburn is chronic can help reduce the onset or and effects of esophageal cancer.
Relief is often hard to come by for those who have heartburn. The common affliction can come about by many factors, including genetics, dietary habits, and results of smoking. For some, heartburn is a sign of something more severe. "It's really bad," said Tessa Fontenot, "like I have to get up and chew a Tums. It's severe."
The burning that Fontenot's is experiencing has been so downright severe that it has kept her from sleeping on certain nights. "Sometimes after I, I feel like there's a burning in my chest and then when I lay down at night, like within a couple of hours, I feel like there's a burning," she said.
While antacids can temporarily fix what ails her, the problem persisted for weeks at a time, and Fontenot became concerned, eventually taking herself to the gastroenterologist Dr. Francis Bride at Christus St. Patrick Hospital.
"Heartburn is the sensation of pain or discomfort that occurs when acid or gastric contents leaves the stomach and goes into the esophagus where it doesn't belong," he said.
Conditions that persist past over-the-counter medication treatments are of particular concern to doctors." Our concern at that time is whether this is uncomplicated acid reflux or is it more complicated acid reflux that needs to be treated more aggressively," said Dr. Bride.
There are a handful of prescriptions that can help take away the burn when OTCs no longer work. "You'll step up to the H2 blockers, which are the Zantac type medications, finally up to the PPIs, which are inhibitors," said Dr. Bride.
The major concern for health professionals is that chronic heartburn can turn into Barrett's Esophagus when left untreated, which in turn causes an increase in risk of cancer. "That is a condition where the lining of the stomach starts creeping up and replacing the lining of the esophagus," said Dr. Bride.
Those who have BE can be treated with ablation catheters and or BARRYX system. However, for many, the usual steps are to reduce food intake in single-sittings, reduce food before bed, cut out acidic foods like citrus, chocolates, and caffeine, and stop smoking. "Just make sure the food is not fried or anything heavy," she said, "and not eat too late at night and when I eat, make sure I wait a couple of hours until I go to sleep."
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