GERD, which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition where the acid in your stomach goes back up into your food pipe (esophagus) instead of staying where it should be. This can cause a burning feeling in your chest, also known as heartburn.
When acid reflux happens only occasionally or in mild cases, it’s not usually a cause for concern. But if it happens frequently, like at least twice a week, or if it’s more severe, then it may be diagnosed as GERD.
GERD can affect people of any age, but it usually starts around the age of 40. If left untreated, it can lead to a more serious condition called Barrett’s esophagus.
If you think you might have GERD, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with one of our specialists at a location near you. They can provide you with the proper diagnosis and treatment.
When you eat, the food goes down a tube called the esophagus and into your stomach through a small valve called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Sometimes, the LES can become weak and not work properly, allowing stomach acid to come back up into the esophagus.
There isn’t usually just one thing that causes this to happen often, but there are certain factors that can make you more likely to have or develop GERD. These include:
– Being overweight
– Being pregnant
– Having a condition called hiatal hernia, where part of your stomach pushes up through a hole in your diaphragm
– Having a connective tissue disorder called scleroderma
– Using tobacco
– Drinking alcohol
– Eating large meals late at night
– Eating spicy foods
– Eating raw onions or garlic
– Lying down often after eating
– Drinking coffee
If you have some of these factors, you might be at a higher risk of experiencing GERD symptoms. It’s important to be aware of these factors and try to make lifestyle changes if needed to help manage or prevent GERD.
The major symptoms of GERD are similar to acid reflux but may occur more frequently. Those symptoms include:
– Chest pain
– Regurgitation of food or sour liquids
– Lump-in-the-throat sensation
– Unexplained weight loss
– Chronic cough
– Disrupted sleep
You should make an appointment with a gastroenterologist if you experience any of these symptoms frequently and are in pain, or if you take over-the-counter-heartburn medication more than twice a week.
Treating gastroesophageal reflux disease may include lifestyle changes, medical intervention, or both. Treatments to prevent or relieve GERD include:
– Avoid foods and beverages prone to cause acid reflux (see those mentioned above)
– Eat slowly and in moderation
– Stay awake and stand up after eating
– Do not eat within a minimum of two hours before going to bed
– Sleep on an incline with the head raised above the feet
– Quit smoking
– Lose weight (if overweight)
– Tell your gastroenterologist about current medications you are taking
– Limit coffee/caffeine intake
– Over-the-counter antacids
– Prescription-strength antacids (H-2 receptor blockers)
– Medication to strengthen the LES
– Fundoplication (surgery wrapping the stomach around the LES)
– LINX device (magnetic beads wrapped around the junction of the stomach and esophagus)
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