If you're experiencing severe chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes or if you suspect you have food lodged in your esophagus or are unable to swallow, get emergency medical care. If you have other signs or symptoms of esophagitis, you'll likely start by seeing your primary care doctor. For some diagnostic tests, your doctor may refer you to a specialist in digestive system disorders (gastroenterologist) or an allergy specialist (allergist). Preparing for your appointment with your doctor or a specialist will help you make the best use of your time.
What you can do
Make a list ahead of time that you can share with your doctor. Your list should include:
- Symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to pain, difficulty swallowing or reflux
- Key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes
- Medications that you're taking, including vitamins and other supplements
- Family history of allergies and disorders of the esophagus or stomach
- Questions to ask your doctor
List questions for your doctor from most important to least important in case time runs out. If you think you have signs or symptoms of esophagitis, you may ask some of the following questions.
- What tests will I need to diagnose the condition?
- Do these tests require any special preparation?
- How long will it take to find out the results of tests?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- How will we know if the treatment is working?
- Will I need follow-up tests?
- What steps can I take on my own to prevent a recurrence of the symptoms?
- I have other medical conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- How severe is your pain or discomfort?
- Do you have difficulty swallowing?
- How often do you experience symptoms?
- Does anything seem to prompt or worsen symptoms, such as certain foods?
- Does anything lessen symptoms, such as taking over-the-counter antacids or avoiding certain foods?
- Are symptoms worse at certain times of the day?
- Do your symptoms begin shortly after taking any medications? If so, which medications?
- Do you have any allergies, and do you take any allergy medication?
- Have you ever had food get stuck in your throat after swallowing?
- Do you ever have food come back up after swallowing?
What you can do in the meantime
If you know that certain foods trigger or worsen symptoms, such as caffeine-containing drinks, alcohol or spicy foods, avoid them. Taking over-the-counter antacids may provide short-term relief of symptoms.
If you suspect that your symptoms are related to a prescription medication, don't stop taking the drug without first talking to your doctor. If possible, limit the use of over-the-counter medications that could be causing problems. When you take pills, drink a glass of water and avoid lying down immediately afterward.
Sep. 15, 2011
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- Heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux (GER), and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/index.htm. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
- Castell DO. Medication-induced esophagitis. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
- Graman PS. Esophagitis. In: Mandell GL, et al. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2010. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-443-06839-3..00094-1&isbn=978-0-443-06839-3&uniqId=270386537-4#4-u1.0-B978-0-443-06839-3..00094-1. Accessed Aug. 1, 2011.
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- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla. Aug. 11, 2011.
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