For 12 years, Kathy Dickinson lived with the painful symptoms of reflux disease, a condition commonly known as "GERD." GERD happens when the lower esophageal sphincter weakens and allows food to flow up. For Dickinson, it meant coughing, pain and no sleep.
"It would happen in the morning. It would happen after I ate. It would happen at night, it was, and it just progressively got worse and worse and worse," she explained.
Dr. Mark Noar of the Endoscopic Microsurgery Associates in Townson, Maryland told her about a procedure to fix GERD for good. It's called the Stretta procedure. Patients are sedated while doctors insert a catheter down the throat and deliver radiofrequency energy to stimulate tissue and strengthen muscles.
"The sphincter muscle gets thicker and stronger, so it won't open as easily," said Noar.
In a recent study, researchers found 72 percent of patients no longer had reflux 10 years after the procedure and 41 percent were off medications.
Bob Davis had the Stretta procedure and is glad he did.
"I reduced my medicine by three pills a day," he said.
Dickinson had it too and no longer has the symptoms of GERD.
"It's something that's not a part of my life anymore," she added.
The study also found 85 percent of those with Barrett's esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition that can develop in GERD patients, no longer had the condition 10 years after having the Stretta procedure. None of the patients studied developed esophageal cancer. Noar says this could mean the procedure protects against cancer, but more research is needed to confirm that finding.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic disease in the digestive system and occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus. This backwash damages the esophagus and that causes GERD. The severity of GERD usually depends on the type and amount of backwash and acids come up from the stomach and how the body uses saliva to neutralize it. GERD gives your esophagus a burning feeling and causes coughing and pain. (Source: http://www.webmd.com/heartburn-gerd/guide/reflux-disease-gerd-1)
CAUSES: Dietary choices are often linked to the cause of GERD. Foods like chocolate, peppermint and fried and fatty foods can trigger reflux. The primary cause of GERD stems from the dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a circular muscle that runs around the bottom of the esophagus and works as a valve that loosens to allow food and liquid down into your stomach. If this valve doesn't function normally, stomach acids can then flow back up into the esophagus and irritate the lining. (Source: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/causes/con-20025201)
TREATMENT: There are many options for the treatment of GERD. Some lifestyle changes that doctors may recommend include wearing loose-fitting clothing, losing weight and keeping yourself upright for three hours after each meal. There are also over-the-counter medications that can help reduce the symptoms of GERD like antacids and H2 blockers. In extreme cases of GERD, surgery can be used but brings a much higher risk of developing complications. (Source: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/#treatment)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: A new procedure called the Stretta procedure is being done to eliminate the symptoms of GERD and improve the life of those living with the disorder. The Stretta procedure involves radiofrequencies delivered to the lining of the throat through a disposable catheter that is slid down the throat while the patient is sedated. The RF waves work to stimulate the muscles of the LES and make it stronger. A stronger LES functions better and in turn reduces the symptoms of GERD. The entire procedure only takes around 40 minutes to an hour and doesn't require the patient to stay in the hospital. Results of the Stretta procedure have proven it to be safe and have shown significant reduction of the effects of GERD in two-thirds of the patients tested. (Source: http://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/stretta-procedure)