Chewing gum, Moshiree said, can be helpful because it stimulates saliva production.
Barrett syndrome is a more serious complication of prolonged acid reflux, lasting 10 or more years. The lining of the esophagus, worn by acid, changes to a tissue similar to the intestinal lining. The process is referred to as intestinal metaplasia. Individuals with Barrett’s esophagus are at increased risk for a rare type of cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma. A preventative procedure, radial frequency ablation, scoops out damaged tissue from the esophagus and can help avert or treat Barrett’s.
Once diagnosed with Barrett’s, which affects about 10 percent of adults with reflux, according to Dr. Barry Migicovsky, a gastroenterologist with Memorial Regional Hospital, an individual will usually undergo surgery to remove the abnormal cells and then is put on meds indefinitely.
Vanessa Gonzalez, 36, a reflux patient of Moshiree, never figured she could have GERD despite a persistent cough that lasted for five months at a time.
“I never felt any heartburn or symptoms that would tell you you have acid reflux,” she said. A gastroenterologist who examined Gonzalez, who works as an administrator in the cardiology department at the University of Miami, suggested her problem sounded like GERD.
“I said, ‘Oh, you must be out of your mind.’ Just because I had this cough I thought everyone was crazy telling me I had GERD. But then a few months ago I got this really bad, crushing pain in my chest. I didn’t have the cough but had this pain and got scared. Every time I’d lean forward or lay down it was really painful and the first thing you think is you are having a heart attack. I finally went to Dr. Moshiree and she did an endoscopy and the results came back that I had symptoms of GERD.”
Gonzalez was put on Zantac, a histamine blocker, and said she hasn’t had symptoms since.
“My whole experience triggered my husband to go see her as well. He gets a lot of heartburn and had similar symptoms but he has reflux, not GERD. He eats a lot of spicy foods.’’
Richard Kearns, a patient of Migicovsky’s at Memorial and a former CEO of Spice World, a major supplier of garlic to the nation’s supermarkets, had Barrett’s.
“Being a layman, I thought it was heartburn. There was a time if I ate too close to bedtime, which I would do a lot when going out with colleagues and having a glass or two of wine, I felt like someone put a blowtorch in my esophagus. I realized this was not normal,” he said from his home in Deerfield Beach.
Kearns underwent the ablation procedure about 2-1/2 years ago. “There was some pain involved, nothing I couldn’t live with. I didn’t love the soft diet for a week afterward,” he said, chuckling.
Last week an endoscopy revealed his system was clear. “I’m feeling pretty darned good.”
Screenings can detect esophageal problems before they become too serious or lead to cancer.
High resolution esophageal and three-dimensional anorectal manometry uses color topography to measure the areas of the esophagus as they contract. Probes measure the acidity in the esophagus and how often a patient has reflux episodes. For this test, a patient wears a catheter for 24 hours and is assessed by the doctor after returning the following day.