I have been suffering with acid reflux for the past 5 years. Prior to this I was a fit, young 29 year-old doctor embarking on a fledgling career in ophthalmology. Life seemed pretty good; I had just bought my first house, I had become an ophthalmology registrar and everything was in order. However, unknowingly this was about to change and my world would start to spiral into a living nightmare.
In October 2008, I began to experience a sore throat, hoarse voice and deep ‘smoker’s like’ cough. Initially I put it down to a viral illness or bronchitis and was prescribed 2 courses of antibiotics. Despite this things were getting worse and my voice was getting increasingly hoarse, to the point I couldn’t hold a sentence together. My cough was uncontrollable and colleagues at work had noticed a change. My nose felt bunged up and I began to develop shortness of breath. My atypical symptoms had never made me think that acid reflux was a perceivable diagnosis, even as a medic. I had always thought acid reflux to be indigestion and heartburn, which are the classic symptoms however a whole myriad of other symptoms exist.
I saw an ENT consultant privately and to my surprise I was diagnosed with acid reflux for which he prescribed me high doses of oral acid suppression tablets as well as Gaviscon Advance. My naivety kicked in and I went away thinking that by taking these tablets I would be cured; again I was wrong. As soon as starting this high-dose regimen I was getting instant relief and things started to look up. By 3 months I was gradually weaning off the tablets, however as soon as I did so, BANG, my symptoms would return! A deep cough, worse in the mornings, a sore dripping nose and a painful throat. It was becoming increasingly apparent that from a fit, young individual I was possibly destined to a life of high acid suppression that my symptoms only partially responded to. I had made all the lifestyle and holistic changes every textbook under the sun had recommended; to a point I became a living zombie. Whilst all my friends were out enjoying themselves and drinking etc, I had to make excuses why I couldn’t eat out late or I couldn’t enjoy a beer with them, trying to keep a lid on a diagnosis I was finding hard to accept. The dichotomy in lifestyle was quite apparent.
I couldn’t go on like this, the tablets themselves were making me feel ill and I began to pursue other avenues of treatment. Between September 2009-October 2012, I had seen 2 ENT surgeons, 2 upper GI surgeons about the possibility of a Nissen fundoplication and had undergone 24 hour pH manometry twice as well as an endoscopy and barium swallow, in order to seek answers on what was becoming an awful condition to live with. I was very concerned on having a fundoplication as I was aware of the possible complications and had read a lot of medical papers on the surgery. However, by this point I had psyched myself up to any possible eventuality, destined to improve my wellbeing. Luckily for me the upper GI surgeons were unkeen to perform the surgery as they felt there was not enough evidence on all the tests, and with my age, to proceed. This was to prove a blessing in disguise…..