Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or occasionally bile flows back (refluxes) into your food pipe (esophagus). The back wash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD manifestations.
GERD signs and symptoms include:
- A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn) sometimes spreading through the throat along with a sour taste in your mouth.
- Chest pains
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry cough
- Hoarseness or sore throat
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (Acid Reflux)
- Sensation of a lump in your throat
These can happen from time to time. When these symptoms occur at least 2 times each week or interfere with your daily life, doctors call this GERD. Seek immediate attention if you experience chest pain especially when accompanied be other signs and symptoms such as shortness of breath or jaw or arm pain. These may be signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Conditions that can increase your risk of GERD include:
- Hiatal Hernia
- Dry mouth
- Delayed stomach emptying
- Connective Tissue Disorders such as Scleroderma
- Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome
Occasional GERD is common, about 33% in the US have GERD. Most people can manage discomfort of heartburn with lifestyle changes and over the counter medications. Below are some common tips to help reduce GERD symptoms:
- Avoid foods and beverages that contribute to heartburn such as chocolate, coffee, peppermint, greasy and spicy foods, tomato products, Alcoholic beverages and probably the onion family.
- Eat small frequent meals rather than large meals.
- Quit smoking.
- Lose weight if overweight.
- Not eating 2-3 hours before sleeping.
- Raise the head of your bed 6-8 inches.
- Avoid bending or stooping positions.
For most people with GERD, over the counter (OTC) medications may offer only temporary relief. People may need stronger medications and sometimes surgery may be required. Treatment may require use of:
- Antacids (short term effect, neutralizes acid) e.g.. Maalox, Mylanta, Rolaids, Pepsin.
- Histamine Blockers (decrease release of acids) e.g. Tagament, Zantac.
- Proton pump inhibitors (decrease acidity of stomach, most effective) e.g. Omeprazole, Nexium, Prevacid, etc.
GERD if left untreated may lead to:
- Narrowing of the esophagus (esophageal stricture) making it difficult to swallow.
- An open sore in the esophagus (esophageal ulcer) which may bleed, cause pain and make swallowing difficult.
- Precancerous changes to esophagus (Barretts esophagus) increasing risk of esophageal cancer. The risk of cancer is low but your doctor will likely recommend regular endoscopy exams to look for early warning signs of esophageal cancer.
For more information about GERD, contact Dr. Reynaldo Cornel at 570-398-1991.