What Is Acid Reflux Disease (GERD)

What Is Acid Reflux Disease (GERD)

What Is GERD ?

Acid Reflux Disease is also known as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or more commonly known as GERD. This is a serious form of the more commonly known condition called acid reflux. Acid Reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter randomly opens for varying lengths of time and then does not close properly. This allows the acidic contents of the stomach to improperly rise into the esophagus. When this occurs, patients can usually taste foods or digestive fluids in the back of the throat. This may also cause a burning sensation that can usually be felt in the chest or throat. Occasional acid reflux is normal, but it is usually identified as GERD when it occurs more than twice per week. It can eventually lead to serious health complications.

The Symptoms Of GERD

GERD can occur in people of all ages. The most common symptoms are frequent acid indigestion, also known as heartburn. It presents as a burning sensation centralized in the mid-abdomen and the lower middle of the chest behind the breastbone. Other patients may experience dry coughing, asthma-like symptoms, or trouble swallowing instead of or in addition to heartburn.

What Causes GERD

The exact cause of GERD is currently unclear. There are, however, certain risk factors such as some anatomical abnormalities that may make some individuals more likely to develop the disease than others. Other potential risk factors include smoking, obesity, and pregnancy. Certain foods such as citrus, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol, fried foods, tomato-based foods, garlic, onions, and spicy foods may also worsen the symptoms and frequency of reflux.

When to See a Doctor For GERD

Patients suffering from GERD usually need to see a doctor if their symptoms have not improved within a few weeks of using over-the-counter antacids or reflux medications. A primary care physician may refer patients to a gastroenterologist for treatment. The condition is usually diagnosed based on the patient's symptoms, but endoscopic procedures may be required to rule out other problems. In most cases, the condition can be managed with prescription medications and lifestyle changes that include avoiding certain foods and drinks, eating small, frequent meals, and not laying down for at least three hours after a meal. When these methods of treatment are not successful in managing the symptoms of GERD, surgery to correct problems may be necessary or highly recommended.

If GERD Is Left Untreated

When left untreated, chronic GERD can cause numerous serious complications. Stomach acid can cause damage to the esophagus. This may lead to inflammation, bleeding, or ulcers. Scar tissue may also develop, causing the esophagus to narrow. Some patients may develop abnormal cells that, in time, can lead to esophageal cancer.

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