University of Pennsylvania Health System

Penn Gastroenterology Q&As

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

What Are The Treatment Options For GERD And Barret's Esophagus?

Question:
I am a 25 year-old active female. I have had stomach issues my whole life. I have GERD and possibly Barrett's esophagus. I have been treated by a GI specialist in South Jersey for three years. However, for the past eight months, I have not had a normal bowel movement. Changing my diet has not affected my symptoms. Normally, it is water and diarrhea. This affects my lifestyle significantly - I am scared to go out in public as I need a bathroom constantly. It then switched to constipation for a month.

My GI doctor didn't think too much of this, yet I am in pain. The diarrhea has since returned two-fold. These symptoms are accompanied by tiredness, nausea, joint pain, dizziness, and so on. Should I get another opinion? All my tests seem to be normal. I am starting to feel distressed that this is how my life will be. Is there a specific doctor I should request to see?

Answer:
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) occurs when a muscle at the end of the esophagus does not close properly. This allows stomach contents to leak back – or reflux – into the esophagus and irritate it. The long-term effects of GERD can lead to Barrett's esophagus – a disorder in which the lining of the esophagus becomes damaged. Normally, a combination of medications is used to treat GERD.

Anti-reflux operations may help patients who have persistent symptoms despite medical treatment. There are also new therapies that can be performed through an endoscope. For advanced cases of Barrett's esophagus, surgical removal of a portion of the esophagus may be recommended – if a biopsy shows dysplasia. Dysplasia is cellular change that tends to lead to cancer. We would be happy to consult with you and recommend the best course of treatment for controlling your symptoms.

To schedule an appointment with a Penn gastroenterologist who can evaluate your condition and recommend the best course of treatment, please call 800-789-PENN (7366) or request an appointment online.