The Benefits of Seeing a Specialist
Prior to having a son with reflux, I thought the only medical specialist my family needed was an endodontist, just in case anyone would ever need a root canal. That thinking has since changed, and now I am constantly grateful for the team of medical specialists available to help care for Ben.
If you or someone you love has reflux, and you have not yet been introduced to the world of specialty care, the following is a list of specialists and how each of them may be able to help you and your family.
1) Gastroenterologists (often called GI doctors) focus on the digestive system. If you have reflux symptoms and your general practitioner has not been able to treat the symptoms effectively, he or she may refer you to a GI doctor. This doctor will most likely send you for a few tests, then he or she will be able to interpret the results and determine a treatment regime.
2) A nutritionist may be needed if you or someone you are caring for is having a difficult time eating as a result of acid reflux. A nutritionist will most likely ask you to bring in a list of what you are eating comfortably, then he or she will be able to calculate what you are missing in your diet. A nutritionist may also be able to give you suggestions of food that may be easier to digest. (We were lucky that our son's nutritionist is also a mother of two children, so her suggestions were always based in reality.)
3) Food allergies and reflux often go hand in hand. If you suspect this is the case, you may want to visit with an allergist. Like any specialist, their experience with reflux may vary, so it is a good idea to check to make sure the allergist has experience with individuals with acid reflux.
4) As unpleasant as it sounds, refluxed material often impacts the ear, nose and throat. That is why you may need an ENT doctor. He or she will be able to determine if symptoms like hoarseness or constant ear infections are reflux related.
5) Chronic illness can create individual and family stress. If you or your loved one has had a difficult time finding treatment for your symptoms, you may be feeling at the end of your proverbial rope. A psychologist or medical therapist may be helpful if this is the case. Don't worry, the good ones are not going to blame you for the condition, or think you are over reacting. What they can do is to help you recognize the pileup of stressors you and your family may be facing as a result of this illness, and help you find resources to assist you.
Just two cautions:
1) Before making an appointment with any specialist, check with your insurance provider to determine if a general practitioner's referral is needed.
2) Like individuals in any profession, their level of experience, expertise, and bedside manner will vary. You may be wise to get an informal referral from a friend or reflux support group before making an appointment with a specialist.