On the left, you can see a photograph taken in the lower part of the esophagus. The lining is severely ulcerated from acid spashing up from the stomach. There is even a layer of whitish pus-like material over the ulcers. This picture was taken during a gastroscopy examination in a 54 year old police officer who gave a history of over 10 years of steadily worsening symptoms of heartburn.
At first the symptoms were sporadic and only occured if he ate late at night. For the past 6 months, he has had severe heartburn most days of the week. He had been using Tums and Pepcid AC with only partial improvment. It has begun to awaken him at night with a burning pain in the middle of his chest. In fact, he went to the emergency room on one occasion fearing he might be having a heart attack. His heart tests were all normal and he was referred to a gastroenterologist for evaluation.
Once the scope test demonstrated that the problem really was gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and that there was no sign of cancer, medical treatment was begun. In addition to some lifestyle changes, the patient was begun on Prevacid. This medication is very effective in reducing the "acid backsplash" from the stomach up into the lower esophagus. Within 48 hours of starting the medication, the patient's heartburn disappeared. Within 6 weeks the ulcers healed completely. He has been heartburn free for over 6 months and feels great. This is a good example of how taking the time to see the doctor and evaluate a problem can often help improve the quality of life.