Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disorder of the digestive system. It results in acid reflux and heart burns when food content or acid from the stomach moves back into the esophagus. Usually a ring of muscle tissue called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) contracts after allowing food into the stomach. This stops the food from coming back up into the esophagus. When the esophageal sphincter does not close correctly, the contents of the stomach can leak back into the esophagus causing GERD.
If GERD is not properly treated, it may lead to serious complications like Barrett’s esophagus. This condition can increase the risk of cancer in this area by altering the normal lining of the esophagus and replacing with a different kind of tissue.
Major risk factors that weakens the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and cause GERD include :
- Hiatal hernia
- Cigarette smoking
- Eating certain foods and beverages like chocolate, peppermint, fried or fatty foods, coffee and alcohol.
What are The Symptoms of GERD?
Heart burn is the most common symptom of GERD. This ranges from a burning feeling in the chest to feeling like food is stuck in the throat.
Some less common symptoms of GERD include :
- Wheezing or weak coughing
- Sore throat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Voice changes
- Hoarseness in voice
- Food regurgitation.
Symptoms of GERD tend to be worse at night especially when lying down immediately after eating. People who experience the symptoms of GERD during the night may find relief by elevating their head while sleeping and avoiding meals before bed.
How is it Diagnosed?
Diagnosis of GERD is done at the hospital. When you have any of the symptoms above, it is important that you see your physician to properly check you to know what is really going on.
Your doctor will use the symptoms you complain of and carry out some physical examination on you. He may also request that you do some lab tests or other forms of investigation to properly diagnose whether your symptoms are due to GERD or other similar health conditions.
Treatments of GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be treated with medications or surgery in severe cases. In addition, making some lifestyle adjustments is highly recommend to properly manage the condition.
People with hiatal hernia or pregnant women will need to see their doctor to discuss the best option to relieve their heart burn. Overweight individuals may need to work on loosing some weight. You may also need to avoid those foods and beverages that increase heart burns including alcohol and cigarette smoking. Eating meals about 2 to 3 hours before bedtime can also help with symptoms of GERD.
Medications like antacids and H-2 receptor blockers are available over-the-counter and effective in treating symptoms of heart burns and acid reflux due to GERD. The doctor may also opt to use proton pump inhibitors, which are stronger, to treat you. It is better to see your doctor to prescribe mediation for you rather than self-medication. Surgical interventions in complicated cases may also be recommended.
- WebMD – Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
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