When to seek help for acid reflux

Man holding his throat

Most of us have experienced an occasional episode of acid reflux. However, for some people, acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, can become more than just a nuisance.

“GERD is a very common condition that is estimated to affect up to 20% of people in the U.S.,” says Alexander Hewlett, DO, Nebraska Medicine gastroenterologist. “Recurrent episodes of reflux require medical attention to prevent long-term complications.”

In chronic cases that are not managed effectively, GERD can cause a variety of complications, including severe inflammation, scarring and narrowing of the esophagus. “These complications can be associated with chronic cough, regurgitation, chest pain, chronic sore throat and difficulty or pain when swallowing,” says Dr. Hewlett.

Home treatment for acid reflux

If you experience more than one to two episodes of acid reflux weekly, you should consider taking steps to manage your condition, recommends Dr. Hewlett. Up to 80% of GERD can be effectively managed with medications.

You can start with over-the-counter antacids that contain calcium carbonate or aluminum hydroxide. If these are not effective, prescription-strength over-the-counter anti-reflux medications such as omeprazole and famotidine are often effective.

More severe cases of GERD that involve regurgitation, chronic cough, hoarseness or difficulty swallowing do not typically respond well to medications and may need additional evaluation and treatment regimens.

If your condition continues, Dr. Hewlett recommends making an appointment with your doctor to be evaluated.

Dr. Hewlett is part of Nebraska Medicine’s multidisciplinary group of doctors and health care professionals who treat and manage all types of esophageal and gastrointestinal disorders, including reflux, swallowing disorders, hiatal hernias (hernias that occur in the diaphragm) and stomach emptying problems.

“There can be various issues causing your condition,” notes. Dr. Hewlett. “We can usually get to the source of your reflux by performing an endoscopy to visually examine the esophagus and upper digestive system as well as get a biopsy. We may also work with our ear, nose and throat specialists if there appears to be other factors contributing to your reflux. Once we determine the source of your condition, we can recommend appropriate treatments to manage your symptoms.”

Severe acid reflux should not be left unmanaged. Over time, chronic GERD can cause the development of more serious complications, such as a tumor of the esophagus or Barrett’s esophagus, a precursor to esophageal cancer.

“Our team has extensive experience treating GERD,” says Dr. Hewlett. “We have the knowledge and expertise to diagnose and manage your condition with the appropriate treatment regimens and surgical procedures when necessary,” says Dr. Hewlett.

Need help for acid reflux? Get evaluated.
Schedule an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists by calling 800.922.0000 for an evaluation and to create a treatment plan to manage your condition effectively.