You might already know how uncomfortable heartburn (acid reflux) can be when it burns your esophagus, but did you know that heartburn can lead to more serious diseases? The experienced team at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates has considerable experience in diagnosing and treating a wide range of conditions affecting the esophagus, using minimally invasive surgery when they can. The practice has offices in Washington Heights, Manhattan, in New York City; Pomona, Goshen, and Fishkill, New York; and Englewood, New Jersey. Call your nearest office today or book an appointment online.
The esophagus is the pipe that connects your throat to your stomach. When you swallow food, it passes down the esophagus and through a ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).
The LES opens to let food into your stomach when you swallow, then closes again. It stays closed to prevent stomach acid from leaking out of your stomach and traveling up your esophagus. You need stomach acid to digest food, but it’s so strong that it can burn the tissues in your esophagus.
The LES sometimes weakens or doesn’t work properly. When this happens, acid can leak or splash (reflux) into your esophagus. This is the cause of heartburn (acid reflux).
Chronic acid reflux causes a condition called GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). GERD and acid reflux are very common conditions.
Other conditions that can affect the esophagus include:
Barrett’s esophagus develops when chronic acid reflux and GERD lead to changes in the esophageal cells. These changes can increase your chance of developing esophageal cancer.
There are two more common types of esophageal cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma tends to affect the middle and upper parts of your esophagus. Adenocarcinoma usually affects cells in the lower part of your esophagus near your stomach.
Achalasia is a more uncommon condition that affects the smooth muscle in your esophagus. If you have achalasia, it makes it hard to swallow because the muscles that squeeze the food down the esophagus to your stomach don’t work properly. Also, the LES doesn’t relax as it should when you swallow.
A variety of treatments are available to address conditions affecting the esophagus.
Treatment for GERD starts with making lifestyle changes like losing weight and cutting down on fatty and spicy foods.
You might need to take medication, including antacids to absorb excess stomach acid and proton pump inhibitors or H2-receptor blockers to reduce or block the production of stomach acid.
If other treatments don’t work, the team at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates can do a procedure called Nissen fundoplication, a laparoscopic surgery used to treat GERD. It’s important not to let GERD continue as it can cause Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.
Treatments for Barrett’s esophagus include endoscopic ablation therapy and endoscopic mucosal resection. Ablation therapy delivers radiofrequency energy that heats the abnormal tissue and destroys it. Mucosal resection involves having an injection in the abnormal area, followed by suction to raise the tissue so it can be snipped off.
Treating esophageal cancer can involve surgery, radiation oncology, and chemotherapy. Wherever possible, the team at Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates uses minimally invasive surgical techniques when operating on the esophagus.
Find out more by calling Rockland Thoracic & Vascular Associates today or book an appointment online.