What type of doctor treats heartburn?

A doctor that treats chronic heartburn or GERD is a specialist called a gastroenterologist. Your regular doctor will often refer you when you have severe symptoms of chronic heartburn that disrupt every day routines. The good news is that you don’t have to suffer that are many treatments that help with chronic heartburn and GERD.

Types of Tests Used for Heartburn and GERD

A gastroenterologist will often take X-rays after you have taken a liquid that helps the images show up better. They often look at the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the stomach.  One type of liquid used is called a barium swallow.

Sometimes the doctor performs an upper GI endoscopy. After being sedated, they will put a flexible tube down your throat. It has a tiny camera attached that allows the doctor to see the damage done to the esophagus and severe damage from GERD. He can take samples, make a diagnosis, and even treat some symptoms immediately.

An esophageal manometry is a test that measures the functioning of the lower esophageal muscle and motor functioning of the esophagus. This test often is performed with a 24 hour ph probe study. A thin tube is placed in your esophagus for 24 hours. It monitors acid reflux production for 24 hours, even while you sleep!

Another test called an ambulatory ph test which is used to test for causes of heartburn and GERD. A sensor is placed in the esophagus that sends radio wave to a ph receiver carried by patient. It is like carrying a cell phone. The device can be carried on a belt or strap. This test usually lasts around 48 hours. Patients can drive, go to work, and eat meals during the testing phase. Acid medications must be stopped after the tests.

The capsule placed inside the body detaches after it is placed about two days and passes harmlessly through the body. A nasal capsule can be placed for 24 hour but it is less effective than the other.

Treatments Used by the Gastroenterologist

After diagnosis the doctor may treat you with medications that help stop the production of stomach acid. These medications for the acid reflux often heal the pain in two weeks or less. When the patient has erosion PPI‘s are the most effective medication to take. They are acid suppressive drugs that stop production of acid not just neutralize it.

When medications do not work the gastroenterologist will often perform surgery. The good news is that many procedures are non-invasive. Many have short recovery time and relieve the need to keep taking medications for GERD and severe heartburn. 

By Joan Russell

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