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Heartburn - what to ask your doctor

Definition

You have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). This condition causes food or stomach acid to come back into your esophagus from your stomach. This process is called reflux. It can cause heartburn, chest pain, cough, or hoarseness.

Below are questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your heartburn and reflux.

Alternative Names

What to ask your doctor about heartburn and reflux; Reflux - what to ask your doctor; GERD - what to ask your doctor; Gastroesophageal reflux disease - what to ask your doctor

Questions

If I have heartburn, can I treat myself or do I need to see the doctor?

What foods will make my heartburn worse?

How can I change the way I eat to help my heartburn?

  • How long should I wait after eating before lying down?
  • How long should I wait after eating before exercising?

Will losing weight help my symptoms?

Do cigarettes, alcohol, and caffeine make my heartburn worse?

If I have heartburn at night, what changes should I make to my bed?

What medicines will help my heartburn?

  • Will antacids help my heartburn?
  • Will other medicines help my symptoms?
  • Do I need a prescription to buy heartburn medicines?
  • Do these drugs have side effects?

How do I know if I have a more serious problem?

  • When should I call the doctor?
  • What other tests or procedures will I need if my heartburn does not go away?
  • Can heartburn be a sign of cancer?

Are there surgeries that help with heartburn and reflux?

  • How are the surgeries done? What are the risks?
  • How well do the surgeries work?
  • Will I still need to take medicine for my reflux after surgery?
  • Will I ever need to have another surgery for my reflux?

References

Katz PO, Gerson LB, Vela MF. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):308-328. PMID: 23419381 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23419381.

Richter JE, Friedenberg FK. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger and Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease: Pathophysiology/Diagnosis/Management. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 44.

Review Date:2/13/2017
Reviewed By:Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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