Reflux - How You Know it is More Serious

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

Acid reflux can be a tricky animal — you don’t always know when your acid reflux is more than just annoying and needs specialized medical attention. With the introduction of numerous medications that can be purchased over the counter (OTC) it can become easy to try to self-medicate and delay needed treatment.

Here are a few signs that might indicate you need to see your doctor as soon as possible.

OTC meds don’t work

If you have acid reflux and have gone the OTC medication route but are still not seeing relief from your symptoms, you need to be evaluated by a physician. It could be that you are treating the wrong problem or that your doctor needs to address your dosage or add additional medication to get your reflux under control. While it might be tempting to skip an office visit for acid reflux, that check-up with your physician can help to rule out things like Eosinophilic Esophagitis (EoE) or esophageal ulcers.

Taking OTC meds longer than prescribed

If you have been buying box after box of OTC medications, taking them longer than the label indicates, it’s time to check in with your doctor. As mentioned above, you may be treating the wrong problem, need a different medication or a different dosage to get through the burn.

Pain is getting worse not better

If your acid-reflux pain has been getting worse and worse or you have added symptoms like issues swallowing, then it is time to see your physician. When your pain is that severe, often a referral to a gastroenterologist is warranted. They can order additional testing and even get a good look at your esophagus through a scope to confirm what is actually going on.

Coughing that is getting worse

If you are reflux coughing or choking and it keeps getting worse, that is a sign that your current treatment may not be working for you. Check in with your doctor to determine if you need additional testing to rule out other conditions like asthma or whether your acid reflux just needs a different treatment.

Poor sleep due to reflux waking you up

Acid reflux is notorious for causing sleeping issues. If you find that you are waking up more frequently or that you are waking up tired due to lack of restful sleep, it’s definitely time to talk with your physician. You may need medication changes, lifestyle changes, or even an elevation of the head of your bed to help limit the issue.

Acid reflux can be a real pain. But with the right treatment and specialists you can get the best pain control possible.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.