GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) or Chronic acid reflux is a gastrointestinal disorder whereby acidic stomach contents flows backward, up into the esophagus (a muscular tube that carries ingested content from your throat into your stomach). This regurgitation causes heartburn described as a painful sensation in the middle of your chest, nausea, vomiting and can lead to breathing problems.
Acid reflux occurs in almost everyone at one point or the other, experiencing heartburn now and then is totally normal especially after eating certain spicy and fatty foods. However, if you experience this intense pain in the middle of your chest more than thrice a week and over a prolonged period of time despite taking heartburn medications and antacids you may have developed GERD.
On GERD awareness week we take time to raise awareness of this disease as it affects about 18 million individuals worldwide, with GERD being the most common GI-related diagnosis given in office visits, and if not well managed may result in esophageal cancer one of the fastest and most fatal cancers.
The main reason for this regurgitation is due to a disorder in a ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach called the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES). In the normal digestive process, the LES opens to allow food into your stomach, then it closes to prevent the backflow of acidic stomach contents from flowing back into your esophagus. Therefore, GERD would occur when the LES is weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t causing the acidic contents to flow up the esophagus. Once this acidic content enters the esophagus it causes irritation, injury and inflammation of the esophagus.
You are of higher risk of developing GERD if you are obese or pregnant both due to increased pressure on your stomach, or have a connective tissue disorder. In addition to this belching or eating a large meal, eating certain foods especially those high in fats, chocolate, and peppermint, smocking or inhaling secondhand smoke and consuming large amounts of alcohol are all significant risk factors.
The most common symptoms of GERD are: Chest pain, Regurgitation of stomach contents, Difficulty swallowing, Bad breath, Nausea and vomiting, Sore throat or an irritated esophagus.
Diagnosis of GERD can be done by a physical exam and a history of signs and symptoms, to confirm suspected GERD a Upper endoscopy may be done to detect esophageal inflammation, or an Ambulatory acid probe test where a monitor is placed in your esophagus to identify when, and for how long, stomach acid regurgitates there. This can be done by an Internist or a gastroenterologist.
GERD can lead to serious life-threatening complications, such as Barrett’s Esophagus (Pre-cancerous changes to the esophagus) which will eventually lead to esophageal cancer, adult-onset asthma, esophageal inflammation, ulceration and bleeding. Thus, it is very important to contact a healthcare provider if you experience frequent GERD symptoms or take over the counter medications for heartburn more than twice a week. This can be done with great convenience using Ponea Health, on Ponea.com you will have access to a variety of accredited and remarkable healthcare providers including gastroenterologists and internists who are able to deliver premium and best in class care in order to properly manage your symptoms, provide curative care and improve your quality of life.