Everything You Need to Know About GERD
Many people experience discomfort after they eat, ranging anywhere from mild heartburn to nausea or an intense burning feeling in the chest or throat. A primary care provider may be able to help patients alleviate these symptoms from time to time, but for chronic discomfort, a specialist may be necessary.
While Peter Stanko, MD, and his colleagues in Prevea's Digestive Health department have experience treating a wide array of diseases that affect the digestive system, one of the most common ailments that they treat patients for is known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
"Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD," says Dr. Stanko. "Most people experience symptoms from time to time and many do on a regular basis."
It is estimated that about 33 percent of Americans suffer from symptoms of GERD. It occurs when the esophageal sphincter, the muscle that separates your stomach from the esophagus, does not close entirely after swallowing. As a result, some of the acid from the stomach can leak back into the esophagus, causing symptoms like inflammation of the esophagus and the feeling known as heartburn.
"Many people experience the symptoms of GERD, such as heartburn, acid reflux or a burning sensation behind the chest after you eat," says Dr. Stanko. "When those problems are persistent or continue to worsen, we begin to look at evaluation and treatment."
There are several factors that make a person more likely to suffer from chronic GERD. Among them are obesity, smoking, asthma, diabetes and pregnancy. However, some relatively simple lifestyle changes may significantly improve symptoms for those who suffer from frequent heartburn. These changes can include avoiding certain foods that trigger heartburn (such as those that are spicy or high in fat) and avoiding eating at least two hours before you go to bed.
Without treatment, chronic GERD can cause inflammation, ulcers and scarring in the esophagus. It can also lead to changes in the cells that line your esophagus which can increase your risk of esophageal cancer. Treatment options include antacids, over-the-counter and prescription medications and, in extreme cases, surgery.
Dr. Stanko and his colleagues see a number of patients who suffer from chronic GERD, but their specialty focuses on the entire digestive tract. Because of this, they see patients with a wide variety of health problems, ranging from the esophagus and stomach to the colon.
"I chose my medical specialty because I have a sincere interest in the care of medical patients," says Dr. Stanko of his chosen profession. "Gastroenterology provides a challenging subspecialty with great opportunities to promote wellness, treat illness and to offer compassionate care."
The Digestive Health department at Prevea includes physicians and nurse practitioners providing care to patients in the Green Bay area and in Sheboygan. As a subspecialty of Internal Medicine, gastroenterologists specialize in diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect the digestive system. In addition to the organs affected by GERD such as the esophagus and stomach, they specialize in knowledge of the small and large intestines, liver, gallbladder and pancreas. Gastroenterologists can perform a variety of endoscopic procedures, depending on the individual patient's needs and they see referrals from a variety of other departments, including Internal Medicine, Family Medicine and Women's Care.
"We make great efforts to be accessible to both patients and providers, whether it's for an urgent office evaluation or completing scheduled procedures in a timely manner," concludes Dr. Stanko. "We like the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues to give patients the best care possible."
Prevea Digesive Health
Green Bay - (920) 429-1700
Sheboygan - (920) 457-4400