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Chronic heartburn may be a symptom of a larger problem.

It happens to most of us at one time or another; we eat a spicy meal, or perhaps drink a caffeinated beverage, and later we get a burning feeling in our chests. Most people know that as heartburn. But when the burning becomes chronic, it’s called gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD).

Thanksgiving meals can lead to overeating and heartburn, so this week is designated as GERD Awareness Week. Here’s a closer look at GERD.

Acid in the Esophagus

Normally stomach acid stays where it should—in the stomach. But if the muscle barrier between the stomach and esophagus doesn’t work properly, the acid can back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn. For many people, heartburn occurs only right after eating and less than once a week.

Is it GERD?

The burning sensation in your chest could be GERD if:

  • You have frequent heartburn.
  • Your heartburn gets worse over time.
  • Your heartburn happens off and on over several years.
  • The discomfort from your heartburn wakes you at night.
  • You can’t swallow easily or swallowing is painful.

Other Symptoms of GERD

While heartburn is the most common symptom, these could also indicate that you have GERD:

  • Burping
  • Chronic sore throat
  • A feeling that food is sticking in the throat
  • Gum inflammation
  • Hoarse voice in the morning
  • Laryngitis
  • Sour taste in the mouth
  • Dyspepsia, which consists of:

    • Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen
    • Full feeling in the stomach
    • Nausea
  • Acid backing up into the throat
  • Chest pain (always see a doctor to rule out that the chest pain is not linked to a heart condition, rather than GERD)

Some Risk Factors

You might have a higher chance of developing GERD if you:

  • Are obese
  • Smoke tobacco
  • Drink alcohol
  • Are pregnant
  • Have asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases
  • Are a postmenopausal woman using hormone replacement therapy
  • Commonly lie down soon after a big meal

If you think you have GERD, see a doctor. If untreated, GERD can increase the risk of more severe ailments, including esophageal cancer. At North Hills Hospital, our doctors can detect and treat GERD before it becomes a major medical issue. Call 1-855-5NHILLS for a referral.

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Learn more about this common gastrointestinal disorder that affects millions.

Causing symptoms like pain, bloating and changes in bowel movements, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a gastrointestinal disorder that often interferes with quality of life. It has no cure, but can be managed with lifestyle changes. Find out what doctors know about IBS and how you can get help.

How common is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, 10 to 15 percent of people in the United States have IBS. Not everyone sees a doctor for it, and not every case is severe.

What are the symptoms?
Not everyone with IBS experiences the same symptoms. The most common symptom is abdominal pain and discomfort. Along with this discomfort, most people experience diarrhea or constipation. Usually the pain is alleviated somewhat after a bowel movement. If you have IBS, these symptoms can happen frequently or infrequently.

What are the causes?
According to the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America, IBS is caused by a disturbance in the way the brain and the intestines interact. This can be related to stress or anxiety, but isn’t caused by stress alone.

How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome treated?
Because IBS does not have a cure, patients are encouraged to use a variety of tools to help alleviate symptoms. Dietary changes and stress management techniques are generally more effective than treating IBS with medication, but medication may need to be used for severe symptoms. Many people find that types of therapy that address stress and other emotional disturbances have a positive effect on IBS symptoms and frequency.

Visit the North Hills Hospital online health information section to learn more about irritable bowel syndrome. Are you experiencing any pain, discomfort or other symptoms of IBS?  Call us at 1-855-5NHILLS to request a physician referral.

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Allergy season has arrived in full force this spring. If you suffer seasonal allergies, you know that this is the time for itchy eyes, stuffy noses, scratchy throats and asthma flare ups. Many allergy sufferers experience what is called hay fever, or allergic rhinitis. The good news is, seasonal allergies are treatable. With the right medications and lifestyle changes, you can survive allergy season. Check out these treatment options for allergy season.

Prevention
The first step against seasonal allergies is to prevent symptoms by limiting exposure to allergens. Keep your windows closed during the worst of the pollen outbreaks. If you need to air out your home, do it early in the morning for a short period of time. Use HEPA air purifiers recommended by the EPA in your home and allergen filters on your air conditioning unit. Avoid going outside or doing lawn work when pollen counts are high, especially if it’s windy. When you come inside, take off your shoes, change your clothes and wash your hands and face.

Over the Counter Drugs
Many people who suffer from seasonal allergies take an over the counter oral antihistamine. However, according to healthfinder.gov, these have little effect on relieving a stuffy nose or inflammation that often occurs with allergies. Visit your primary care doctor or allergist to talk about the correct medications for your specific symptoms. When taking over the counter medications for allergies, take them as scheduled and try not to skip a dose during the worst of the season.

Prescription Drugs
Your doctor may recommend a prescription nasal spray for your allergy symptoms, especially if you have a chronic stuffy nose and sinus issues related to hay fever. Take it as recommended, following the directions carefully. Your doctor may also prescribe oral medication to help prevent allergic rhinitis and asthma. Prescription antihistamine nose sprays and eye drops are also available. In many cases, you and your doctor have to find the right combination of medications that work best for you. When allergy season isn’t in full force, it may be possible to decrease doses or pause medication.

Immunotherapy
For those with seasonal, environmental allergies that don’t respond well to medication, immunotherapy is often the best solution in the long run. Better known as allergy shots, this type of allergy treatment takes place weekly over a set period of time, often for up to a year. Once a maintenance dose has been achieved, patients receive the allergy shots less often. While initially expensive, this type of treatment can save you time and money in the long run by significantly lessening symptoms of seasonal allergies.

North Hills Hospital makes patient care a priority with immediate treatment, attention and follow-up. For a physician referral, please visit us online or call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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There has been recent concern about potential tuberculosis (TB) exposure in DFW counties. To address these concerns, we would like to post some quick facts about this disease, which we encourage you to share with your friends, family and community. While Dallas County officials do not expect a TB outbreak, staying informed is often your best protection.

What Is TB and How Do I Avoid It?
TB is an airborne disease spread by coughing, speaking or sneezing and it can affect the lungs, brain, spine or kidneys. Denton County Health Department notes that: “Only those with close and prolonged exposure (6 hours or greater) to an individual with active TB are considered at risk for TB.” This disease can be deadly if it is not treated.

To prevent TB exposure, individuals should not have prolonged contact with TB patients and should avoid areas where TB might be airborne. While there is a TB vaccine, it is generally not recommended in the U.S. due to limited effectiveness. Some individuals can have a latent form of TB – this type of TB is not contagious but can develop into TB eventually.

Do I Have TB?
TB symptoms can include:

  • Sickness and weakness
  • Weight loss
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing blood

How Is TB Tested and Treated?

If you suspect that you have TB, contact your physician immediately for testing. A simple skin or blood test may be performed to determine whether an individual has the disease. If the test is positive, it must be determined whether the disease is latent or not. Either type of TB will be treated with a variety of medications. It is critical that patients who test positive take their medication exactly as directed.

Again, we do not expect a serious outbreak, but being aware of TB symptoms and remaining proactive about your health is always the best advice in any case. Please call North Hills Hospital at (817) 255-1000 with any questions about your health concerns.

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