Digestive system diseases, such
as inflammatory bowel disease, colon cancer, and gastroesophageal reflux
disease, require a doctor who specializes in that area. A gastroenterologist is
a doctor who has spent an extra two or three years studying the
gastrointestinal tract. This includes the stomach, esophagus, small intestine,
gallbladder, liver, bile ducts, colon, and rectum.
Those extra years of study
make gastroenterologists qualified to treat GERD. GERD is a condition in which stomach
acid rises into the esophagus, resulting in frequent and severe heartburn two
or more times a week. A gastroenterologist will be able to:
- suggest lifestyle changes
- prescribe medication to neutralize acid or improve gastric
- perform an endoscopic treatment
- suggest surgery to stop acid reflux from occurring
How to Find a Gastroenterologist
Talk to your primary care
physician and ask for a recommendation for a gastroenterologist if you suspect that
you have GERD. Some primary care physicians are knowledgeable about
gastrointestinal issues. However, others may not have much specific training.
Usually, it’s best to find a specialist.
You can search the American
College of Gastroenterology’s (patients.gi.org) or the American
Gastroenterological Association’s (gastro.org) websites for a
gastroenterologist if your doctor doesn’t have any recommendations. These
websites can help you formulate a list of doctors near you.
Double-check that the
prospective doctors are in-network and that you don’t need a referral from your
internist before making an appointment.
What to Look For
Come up with a list of
gastroenterologists who practice in your area and are covered by your insurance.
Then, narrow down the choices by gathering some additional information. Research
them online and find out what medical schools they attended and how long ago
they graduated. This will clue you in to how much experience they have treating
GERD. Don’t feel shy about calling up their office to ask questions like: “How
easy is it to get an appointment?” and “Do you actually get to see the main
doctor or only a physician’s assistant?”
In addition, look for the
initials “FACG” or “FACP” after the doctor’s name. These letters indicate that the
doctor is a fellow of the American College of Gastroenterology or a fellow of
the American College of Physicians. This typically means that they’ve shown
achievement in the field of gastroenterology and are operating at the highest
level in the field.
The most important factor
isn’t those qualifications—it’s your level of comfort with your
gastroenterologist. GERD can be an embarrassing problem. You should be able to describe
and discuss all of your symptoms comfortably with your doctor. It’s worth
trying another doctor if you get the impression that a doctor isn’t listening or
is rushing through your first appointment.