See your doctor if your heartburn becomes more frequent or no longer responds to over-the-counter medications. Your doctor may recommend you see a doctor who specializes in treating digestive diseases (gastroenterologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Consider taking a family member or friend along. Sometimes it can be difficult to absorb all the information provided during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For heartburn, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Do I need an endoscopic exam?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover it?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing for me?
- Are there brochures or other printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
- Should I schedule a follow-up visit?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may allow more time later to cover points you want to address. Your doctor may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you first notice these symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Do your symptoms wake you up at night?
- Are your symptoms worse after meals or after lying down?
- Do your symptoms include nausea or vomiting?
- Does food or sour material ever come up in the back of your throat?
- Do you have difficulty swallowing?
- Have you gained or lost weight?
- Do you experience nausea and vomiting?
What you can do in the meantime
Try lifestyle changes to control your symptoms until you see your doctor. For instance, avoid foods that trigger your heartburn and avoid eating at least two hours before bedtime.
May. 21, 2011
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- Kahrilas PJ. Clinical manifestations and diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux in adults. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed April 13, 2011.
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- Achem SR. Noncardiac chest pain - Treatment approaches. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 2008;37:859.
- Understanding heartburn and reflux disease. American Gastroenterological Association. http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/heartburn-gerd. Accessed April 13, 2011.
- Kahrilas PJ, et al. American Gastroenterological Association medical position statement on the management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Gastroenterology. 2008;135:1383.
- Fennerty MB, et al. Short- and long-term management of heartburn and other acid-related disorders: Development of an algorithm for primary care providers. The Journal of Family Practice. 2009;58:S1.
- Weight management. U. S. Department of Agriculture. http://www.nutrition.gov/nal_display/index.php?info_center=11&tax_level=3&tax_subject=390&topic_id=1741&level3_id=6295&level4_id=0&level5_id=0&placement_default=0. Accessed April 13, 2011.
- Picco MF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 24, 2011.
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