Heartburns have become so common-place in modern life that many have started believing it’s the new normal. However, it’s definitely a disease if it’s prolonged and persistent and goes by the scientific term - Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
It is estimated that the prevalence of GERD is 10-20% in America and Europe and 5% in Asia. The disease is characterised by a burning sensation in the chest and regurgitation in the chest and throat after eating. Atypically, some patients may also have chronic cough, change in voice and difficulty in eating.
It’s important to treat it since it is distressing to pursuing normal activities. Left untreated, it may progress to cause chemical damage to the oesophagus and may even lead to cancer.
Many patients can be treated with medicines effectively. The antacid liquids and oral drugs need to be taken over long periods for good results. Some patients, however, will need surgery that goes by the term - fundoplication. It is a laparoscopic surgery that aims to strengthen the lower end of esophagus thereby preventing acid and food from enter it. Patients have tremendous benefit from this procedure and may help patients go off medications permanently. It’s particularly helpful in relieving reflux, a very distressing symptom of these patients. All patients with heartburn should have clinical evaluation to establish if they have GERD and then undertake lab tests to see if they need medications or surgery.