A situation where the stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube that connects your mouth and stomach (esophagus) is referred to as Gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is also called acid regurgitation or acid reflux. This back flow of acid can cause irritation to the lining of your esophagus. Though some reflux is normal and harmless causing no symptoms but when it occurs too often, it burns the inner lining of your esophagus. It’s a fact that many people experience this acid reflux frequently but when it occurs more than twice in a week, it is diagnosed as GERD.
You can treat the discomfort associated with GERD with some changes in lifestyle and over the counter medications but in some cases, it requires stronger medications or surgery to ease the symptoms associated with this disease. GERD occurs often in western countries, affecting 20 to 30 percent of the population and can actually lead to serious complications.
Quick facts on Acid reflux
- It occurs when some acidic content in your stomach go back up into your esophagus
- It results to a burning pain sensation in the lower chest area, often after eating
- Risk factors of this condition include smoking and obesity
- You can also refer to acid reflux as heartburn, acid indigestion, or pyrosis.
- Medications for treatment are available on prescription and over the counter (OTC).
Symptoms of GERD
The most common signs and symptoms of GERD include:
- A chest pain
- Burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), mostly after eating and this might be worse at night.
- Regurgitating food or sour fluid
- A feeling of lump in your throat.
A nighttime acid reflux may present with
- Inflammation of the larynx (laryngitis)
- Disturbed sleep and
- Chronic cough.
- Difficulty swallowing
- Choking or gaggling
- Feeling irritable
- Refusal to eat
- Weight loss
- Trouble sleeping
- Recurring pneumonia
Causes & Risk factors of GERD
This is majorly by frequent acid reflux. There is a circular band of muscle located around the bottom of your esophagus that relaxes to allow food and fluid to flow into your stomach (lower esophageal sphincter) afterwhich it closes back. If this sphincter is weakened or it relaxes abnormally, the acid in your stomach can flow back into your esophagus. When this back-flow is constant, it causes irritation and swelling. However, factors that can increase your risk include
- Hiatal hernia
- Being obese
- Delay in stomach emptying
- Eating bulky meals and eating late at night
- Fatty or fried foods
- Certain beverages such as coffee or alcohol
GERD is confirmed based on the information you give to your physician on signs and symptoms but the following investigations can be recommended
- Upper Endoscopy
- Probe test
- Esophageal manometry
- X-ray of the upper digestive system to view your esophagus, stomach and upper intestine.
This involves lifestyle changes and over the counter medications.
Medications such as antacids to neutralize stomach acid, H2 receptor blockers to reduce acid production and proton pump inhibitors to block acid production and heal your esophagus.
When GERD cannot be controlled with medications basically, your physician might recommend a laparoscopic procedure to tighten the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent back-flow of stomach content.
It might help to
- Stop smoking
- Lose excess weight if you are obese
- Eat smaller meals at a time
- Chew gum after you are done eating
- Ensure you do not lie down immediately after eating
- Avoid meals that triggers your symptoms
- Avoid tight fitting clothing
- Reduce intake of table salt
- Avoid increased pressure on your stomach, such as using tight belts
Complications of GERD
- Inflammation of the esophagus
- Esophageal stricture
- Esophageal cancer
- Chronic cough
- Dental problems.