Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also referred to as acid reflux, is a chronic digestive disease in which acid and bile flow back from the stomach into the esophagus, creating pain and often causing damage to the lining of the esophagus. GERD is caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter. Many people have heartburn, acid reflux and indigestion on an occasional basis. However, when GERD symptoms occur regularly, medical advice may be necessary. At UT Health Austin, we understand that pain can greatly impact your quality of life, and we are dedicated to alleviating your symptoms.
Symptoms of GERD
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Shortness of breath
- Dental erosions and bad breath
- Frequent throat clearing
Risks of GERD
In addition to a wide range of uncomfortable symptoms, GERD can lead to potentially serious complications including:
- Esophagitis (Inflammation that can damage esophagus tissue)
- Stricture (Narrowing of the esophagus)
- Barret’s Esophagus (Pre-cancerous changes to the tissue lining the esophagus)
- Esophageal cancer
Treating GERD at UT Health Austin
There are three different treatment strategies for GERD: lifestyle modifications, medication and surgical intervention. Lifestyle modifications include weight loss, raising the head of the bed at night, smoking cessation, avoiding food triggers, avoidance of alcohol can help improve symptoms.
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) like Prilosec and Nexium have been the mainstay of treatment for many years. These medications work by decreasing the amount of acid that the stomach normally secretes. It is important to note, however, that these medications do not fix the weakened valve thereby they do not prevent the act of reflux. Medications are effective at alleviating the symptoms of heartburn, healing erosions to the lining of the esophagus, and overall are thought to be safe.
Some patients who suffer from GERD may require surgery. Surgical procedures aim to fix the cause of acid reflux by strengthening the lower esophageal sphincter and preventing reflux. The majority of patients no longer require medical therapy following surgery.
No matter what treatment you require, our team of experts is dedicated to developing a customized treatment plan tailored to your specific needs, so you can focus on what really matters.
About the Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center
The UT Health Austin Heartburn and Esophageal Disorders Center has assembled a team of experts that includes a gastroenterologist, surgeons, and associate providers, imaging experts, a dietitian and social workers. This team enables us to provide the right care for the right patient at the right time. For some patients, nonsurgical interventions such as lifestyle modifications and medications can help improve symptoms of reflux, while surgery may be the best course of action for others. Whatever your needs, our team is here to listen and work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for you.