Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, often called GERD, is a condition that causes stomach acid to flow back into the esophagus, causing several uncomfortable symptoms. Adults often experience GERD, but children can be troubled by the problem also. Untreated GERD can lead to erosion of the tissues in the esophagus and may even lead to the development of cancer of the esophagus.
Symptoms of GERD
Regurgitation of food back into the mouth is one of the more uncomfortable symptoms of GERD. Adults may have severe heartburn, coughing or chest pain. You may experience a feeling of food stuck in your throat or sudden vomiting. Asthma symptoms can occur.
In children, GERD symptoms may include frequent episodes of vomiting in small amounts. Not wanting to eat and excessive crying may occur. The child may have hoarseness or experience a feeling of choking. They may have bad breath or difficulty sleeping after eating.
Who Is at Risk for Developing GERD?
Individuals who are obese are at a higher risk for developing GERD. Pregnancy can also cause pressure on the band of muscles at the bottom of the esophagus. Individuals with a hiatal hernia may also experience GERD symptoms. Certain disorders, such as schleroderma, can lead to GERD. If you smoke, eat excessive amounts of food or consume alcohol or coffee in large amounts, you may develop GERD. Taking certain medications have also been linked to GERD.
Diagnosis of GERD
Generally, your doctor will be able to determine if you have GERD from your medical history and your reporting of symptoms. However, tests such as endoscopy or upper GI tests can also determine if a problem exists in the muscles of the esophagus.
Treatment of GERD
Antacids that help to neutralize stomach acid can help to reduce GERD discomfort. Medications are available that reduce stomach acid or block acid production to reduce symptoms. Your doctor may offer a prescription medication that helps to reduce acid and heal tissues in the esophagus. For severe cases, surgery may be necessary to tighten the muscles that hold in stomach contents.
Without appropriate treatment, GERD symptoms can be uncomfortable and frustrating. Fortunately, treatment and lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in the frequency and severity of symptoms. Talk with your primary care physician to find the right treatment to reduce your GERD symptoms.
This blog post is meant for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice.