Acid reflux

Other names: GERD, Gastroesophageal reflux

DEFINITION

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive condition where stomach acid or contents flow back into the esophagus, causing irritation and symptoms. When these symptoms occur frequently or affect daily life, a diagnosis of GERD may be made. While lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications can help manage GERD for most people, some may require stronger treatments like medications or surgery.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of GERD include heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, dry cough, hoarseness, regurgitation of food or liquid, and feeling a lump in the throat. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe chest pain or other concerning symptoms.

CAUSES

GERD is caused by the abnormal relaxation or weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus. This acid irritation can lead to inflammation, complications like esophageal narrowing, ulcers, or Barrett's esophagus over time.

RISK FACTORS

Factors that can increase the risk of developing GERD include obesity, hiatal hernia, pregnancy, smoking, asthma, diabetes, dry mouth, delayed stomach emptying, and certain connective tissue disorders.

COMPLICATIONS

Chronic inflammation from GERD can lead to complications such as esophageal stricture (narrowing), esophageal ulcers, and Barrett's esophagus, which has an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

When preparing for a doctor's appointment for suspected GERD, be aware of any restrictions, write down symptoms and questions for your doctor. It's essential to communicate all relevant information effectively during your appointment.

TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosis of GERD is based on symptoms and may involve tests like pH monitoring, X-rays, endoscopy, or esophageal motility testing to assess acid levels and evaluate the esophagus.

TREATMENTS AND DRUGS

Treatment options for GERD range from over-the-counter antacids and acid reducers to prescription medications like proton pump inhibitors. In severe cases where medications are ineffective, surgical procedures like Nissen fundoplication or Linx device placement may be considered.

LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES

Lifestyle changes can help manage GERD symptoms and include maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding trigger foods/drinks, eating smaller meals, not lying down after eating, elevating the head of the bed while sleeping, and quitting smoking.

ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

While no alternative therapies have been proven to treat GERD definitively, some complementary approaches like herbal remedies or relaxation techniques may offer relief when used in conjunction with conventional treatments.

QUESTIONS

  1. What is GERD?

GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and involves stomach acid flowing back into the esophagus.

  1. What are common symptoms of GERD?

Symptoms include heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, coughing, hoarseness, regurgitation of food/liquid.

  1. What are some risk factors for developing GERD?

Risk factors include obesity, hiatal hernia, pregnancy, smoking, asthma.

  1. How is GERD diagnosed?

Diagnosis is based on symptoms and may involve tests like pH monitoring or endoscopy.

  1. What are some initial treatments for controlling heartburn in GERD?

Initial treatments may include over-the-counter antacids or acid reducers.

  1. When should one seek immediate medical attention regarding GERD symptoms?

Immediate medical attention is necessary if experiencing severe chest pain or other alarming symptoms.

  1. Can lifestyle changes help manage GERD?

Yes, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding trigger foods/drinks can help reduce symptoms.

  1. Are there alternative medicine options for treating GERD?

While not proven definitively effective for treating GERD alone, alternative therapies like herbal remedies or relaxation techniques may offer relief as complementary approaches.

  1. What complications can arise from untreated GERD?

Complications may include esophageal stricture (narrowing), ulcers, and Barrett's esophagus with an increased risk of esophageal cancer.

  1. What questions should one prepare for a doctor's appointment regarding suspected GERD?

Questions may involve understanding the cause of symptoms, necessary tests/treatments, and how to manage other health conditions alongside GERD treatment.