The Four Stages of GERD and Treatment Options
Reflux disease is a chronic and progressive condition. Treatment options depend on the disease stage. The disease stage is determined by the severity of reflux into the esophagus. This in turns depends on how frequent and how long are the reflux episodes. The longer and the more frequent acid reflux episodes are the more significant is the damage to the esophagus. GERD is also associated with a spectrum of symptoms that ranges from mild heartburn to severe chest pain mimicking a heart attack. GERD treatment options are highly dependent upon an individual’s GERD stage.
Stage 1: Mild GERD
Patients experience mild symptoms once or twice a month. Treatment relies on lifestyle changes and over-the-counter acid suppressive medications.
Stage 2: Moderate GERD
Patients experience more frequent symptoms requiring daily prescription acid suppressive medications. Untreated GERD symptoms affect patient daily activities and are associated with esophageal inflammation.
Stage 3: Severe GERD
Patients with severe GERD have poorly controlled symptoms on prescription medications. Their quality of life is substantially lower. Patients are more likely to have erosive esophageal inflammation. A thorough evaluation by a GERD expert is highly recommended. A successful anti-reflux procedure that restores the integrity of the lower esophageal sphincter cures GERD and improves patient quality of life.
Stage 4: Reflux induced precancerous lesions or esophageal cancer
Stage 4 is the result of many years of untreated severe reflux. 10% of patients with long-term GERD progress to stage 4. They develop a pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus may progress to cancer if untreated. There are different modalities of treatment for Barrett’s esophagus aimed at preventing progression to cancer. Close follow up and management by a reflux expert is highly recommended.
Treat the Cause, Not the Symptoms
Stage 3 and 4 patients have a very weak lower esophageal sphincter the LES and/or a hiatal hernia. If you have stage 3 or 4 GERD, you have an anatomical medical condition. Medications simply suppress the symptoms; Medications do not and cannot treat the cause. At Houston Heartburn and Reflux Center, we can help you treat the cause of GERD through a minimally invasive surgical procedure. From initial consultation to diagnostic work-up, surgery, and post-op visits Houston Heartburn and Treatment Center:
- Facilitates a coordinated team approach of healthcare professional dedicated to the treatment of GERD.
- Offers access to an efficient, streamlined medical diagnostic program to confirm if you have GERD and/or hiatal hernia.
- Works with experienced surgeons who are specialist heartburn and reflux physicians.
- Acts as a liaison with healthcare providers to provide you with the best experience possible.
- Will help you meet your insurance requirements and assist in the insurance claim process.
- Will vigorously defend any insurance appeals process, if you are denied the benefits you are due.