GERD is an acronym that stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is more commonly known acid reflux or heartburn. It’s a very common problem in America affecting 1 in 5 people. GERD is the disease where abnormal amounts of acid a refluxed back upward from the stomach into the esophagus leading to classic symptoms such as heartburn.
GERD is caused by frequent episodes of acid refluxing into the esophagus enough to cause a patient bothersome symptoms. Various different factors may contribute to developing GERD. Sometimes the muscles of the lower esophagus relax frequently, allowing for acid to come back up. Other factors include obesity, smoking and eating fried and fatty foods. Consuming alcohol, coffee and even peppermint and chocolate may also increase the chances of experiencing acid reflux. Eating a large meal can also exacerbate your chances, as can eating very shortly before lying down.
One of the most common factors affecting your likelihood of developing GERD is the presence of a hiatal hernia. Generally, no treatment is necessary for a hiatal hernia, which is a situation in which the top of the stomach bulges up through the diaphragm. The development of the hiatal hernia may be related to weight gain.
The most common of GERD are those caused by acid in the esophagus – which can lead to heartburn, chest pain, and upper stomach pain. These symptoms may increase after eating, but might happen at any time, especially when laying flat at night.
Other symptoms related to GERD include difficulty swallowing, or feeling like you have a lump stuck in your throat/chest. Also burping sour liquid or regurgitated food are symptoms of GERD. Additional symptoms that are most prominent with nighttime acid reflux include having a chronic cough, suffering from laryngitis, experiencing asthma, and experiencing disrupted sleep.
Over time, and through prolonged contact with stomach acid, a number of additional complications can arise. For instance, as the acid continues to damage your esophagus, scar tissue will form. This will make it harder to swallow. There’s also the potential for developing an esophageal ulcer, and for developing esophageal cancer.
GERD can be treated in a variety of fashions. For most people, over-the-counter medications are all that are needed to manage the condition, coupled with lifestyle changes. For instance, stopping tobacco use can help dramatically, as can reducing the amount of alcohol you consume, and changing your diet. Weight loss may be the most effective way to cure GERD symptoms, especially for those patients who are overweight or obese. There are however cases of GERD that require stronger medication.
For those patients that do not respond to lifestyle, diet and medications or just do not want to take medications anymore, there are other options. In these cases antireflux procedures may be helpful. An antireflux procedure is a type of intervention aimed at tightening the connection between the esophagus and the stomach to prevent acid from refluxing up. There are surgical and endoscopic options to achieve this. One endoscopic therapy that has shown to be effective at treating and curing GERD is the TIF (Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication) procedure.
Are you interested in learning more about GERD, or other GI conditions? We invite you to contact us to learn more. Dr. Prashant Kedia is a therapeutic endoscopist and gastroenterologist serving patients in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and beyond. Call today to schedule an appointment at (214) 941-6891.