Sometimes, making changes to your lifestyle can improve symptos of reflux. This may include substantially altering your diet and eating habits (e.g. avoid – large meals, eating late in the evening, spicy or rich foods, dining-out, fizzy drink/alcohol), losing some weight, regular exercise, reducing stress and anxiety. Other measures can also and lifting the head end of your bed or sleeping propped up with pillows, and avoiding certain activities which involve straining or bending (e.g. gardening, cycling).
In many patients, this may be enough. In others, however despite this, the symptoms persist or can relapse after a period. These kinds of restrictions can also really interfere and affect the enjoyable things in life, including family, relationships and the ability to work well in an occupation.
A large number and wide variety of drugs are available to help manage symptoms of reflux. These mainly work by reducing acid secretion or neutralising it. Symptoms usually improve and damage to the oesophagus is reduced.However, because these drugs do not fix the underlying problem of the weak valve, and once you stop taking the medication, the symptoms return and damage to the oesophagus continues.
Consequently, many people end up becoming drug-dependant and really suffer when they accidently miss a dose. With time, drugs tend to become less effective at keeping symptoms under control which inevitably leads to having to take increased amounts (dose escalation) and the incorporation of different kinds of drugs, some of which act in different ways and not just on the stomach acid (poly-pharmacy).
All drugs have side-effects, some of which are difficult to tolerate. Furthermore, as reflux is a chronic condition (does not go away or improve with time), so many patient end up taking high doses of tablets for decades. Evidence is now coming to light of some potentially harmful effects of taking acid suppression medication over long periods including damage to bones, bowel and kidneys.
Medical therapy does ultimately become expensive, particularly if you have to take several different drugs over many years. If good symptom control is not achieved, then it is likely that damage to the oesophagus is still occurring, which is why many patients do find this form of treatment eventually unsatisfactory, even if it was effective initially.
I have no acid reflux problems and it has made such a difference for my lifestyle. Thank you very, very much for all that you have done for me.
Surgery aims to cure reflux by repairing the weak valve itself, eliminating all related symptoms and obviating the need for regular medication. Keyhole anti-reflux surgery (laparoscopic fundoplication) is a proven and very successful procedure.
The LINX system is an exciting new development which offers a more minimally invasive approach to fixing this problem.
The impact of reflux disease on people’s lives is often very underplayed as many doctor’s do not regard it as a serious illness. This is not true, and the detrimental effect on health-related quality of life can just as bad or worse, as anyone suffering from other chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease.