Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is caused by frequent acid reflux. It is a chronic disorder that occurs when the acids in the stomach back up into the bottom of your esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) and irritate the lining.
GERD is caused by a malfunction in a ring of muscle fibers at the end of the esophagus known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). Typically, the LES opens during food consumption to allow food to pass through the esophagus into the stomach and then closes again. With GERD, the LES doesn’t fully close, allowing stomach acids to leak into the esophagus.
Risk factors that may contribute to GERD include:
Symptoms vary from person to person, but they are normally mild in severity. GERD symptoms include:
Heartburn symptoms can wreak havoc on your ability to get a full night of sleep. If you experience any of the following symptoms (along with the basic symptoms of GERD), you may be suffering from nighttime acid reflux:
Many people have GERD but assume that it is related to their diet and do not see a doctor. Seeing a doctor and receiving treatment for this condition is the best way to avoid discomfort and live a healthier and more comfortable life. Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience frequent or alarming GERD symptoms for example, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dysphagia, blood in the stool, weight loss, anemia on blood work. Anyone over the age of 45, anyone with chronic reflux of 5 years or more – even if controlled with medication or take over-the-counter medication for your symptoms more than twice a week should especially make an appointment with their doctor.
You should also be aware that symptoms of GERD can be similar to symptoms of something more dangerous. Call your doctor right away if you experience persistent chest pain with shortness of breath, jaw, or arm pain. These may be signs of a heart attack.
In the majority of cases, lifestyle changes may aid in relieving GERD symptoms. These changes may include:
If lifestyle changes do not alleviate symptoms, there are also medications available to treat GERD, including:
In rare cases, surgical procedures to reinforce or strengthen the LES may be necessary. Surgery is only considered after all other methods of treatment have failed.
GERD and acid reflux can cause immense discomfort, so the first step to finding relief is to visit a gastroenterologist to discuss your symptoms. Our physicians at Digestive Healthcare Center will evaluate your GERD symptoms and choose the best treatment path for you. We treat a variety of conditions and offer many different procedures focused on helping our patients live the healthiest lives possible. To learn more about this condition or to schedule an appointment at one of our locations in New Jersey, please contact us today.
Whether you come to see us in person at one of our three offices or speak to one of our physicians via a virtual telemedicine visit, we will ensure that all of your questions are answered and that all decisions made for your health are tailored to you. Get on track to more comfortable living with help from DHC!