St. Joseph’s Heartburn Center seeing influx in patients due to COVID-19 pandemic

Local News
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — After closing for a few months because of the coronavirus pandemic, the St. Joseph’s Health Heartburn Center reopened this month and it’s flooded with patients.

We, being the only specialized comprehensive center for heartburn management in Upstate New York, at least that we know of, do normally see a lot of patients and because of the pandemic, late March and April we had to shut it down completely. There was a long list of patients waiting in the wings to be just managed, diagnosed, and treated, and then because of COVID, the stress level went up and people started experiencing more and more heartburn.

Dr. Atul Maini, Medical Director of the Heartburn Center

The medical team at the center started seeing patients again last week and they’re already seeing an increase of 60-70 percent more patients than before COVID-19.

“Through the COVID times, definitely the anxiety level has gone up for all of us, we’re stressed out,” said Dr. Maini. That’s just one factor. He says poor, changing diets and weight gain are two others.

Doctors have also noticed people have been trying to self-treat heartburn with over the counter medication, which Maini says isn’t the best solution.

“People think it’s heartburn, no big deal I’ll pop some Tums, take some over the counter medication it should be fine but heartburn ranges from extreme, a benign problem like just heartburn, to esophageal cancer,” he said.

The mild burning or discomfort after a big or spicy meal isn’t what Dr. Maini is most concerned with, it’s when it goes untreated and develops into something more serious like GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

“It can change the lining of your esophagus, and then we call it Barrett’s esophagus and if you have Barrett’s esophagus you have 60 times more chance of developing esophageal cancer,” said Maini.

If you have heartburn, chest pain, wake up overnight with an acid taste in your mouth, or need to use more pillows overtime, Maini says you should call your doctor and you shouldn’t rely on over the counter medications to fix it.

“You should not be on those medications for more than 3-6 months and we see patients for 20 years, they have been on different medications, different combinations, different doses, and then they come to us,” said Dr. Maini.

Dr. Maini tells NewsChannel 9 the Heartburn Center is exploring different options and ways to continue managing the influx of patients. They’re anticipating more people will develop reflux issues and more patients will come to the center.

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