GERD is short for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. What happens is that GERD causes damage to the mucus membranes due to the stomach acid that rose up from the stomach and into the esophagus.
What usually trigger GERD would be the changes in the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus. This includes any permanent or temporary abnormal relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, the organ that acts as a barrier at the top of the stomach. Such abnormality will cause an unnecessary expulsion of acid to the esophagus. This causes severe discomfort and pain, directly affecting day to day life.
What is GERD – Signs and Symptoms
In Adults, the most typical forms of signs and symptoms would have to be the following:
- a bitter pain in the chest (heartburn)
- regurgitating uncontrollably ; and
- difficulty when it comes to swallowing or dysphagia.
The less common types of signs and symptoms would be:
- the feeling of nausea
- pain when swallowing called odynophagia; and
- too much salivation which is medically known as water brash
There are uncommon signs and symptoms that can only be associated with GERD if brought about together with esophageal injury:
- Chronic cough
- Damaged teeth, sensitive teeth, and erosion of dental enamel
It is difficult to detect the sign of GERD in children and babies. The symptoms may vary from the common symptoms of GERD in adults. Children would usually repeatedly cough, vomit, excessively spit, refusal to eat and have bad breath.
What is GERD – the Hazards
GERD will harm the esophagus and cause injuries such as:
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Reflux esophagitis
- Esophageal adenocarcinoma
- Esophageal strictures
See more in heartburn complications post.
What is GERD – Treatment and Prevention
Here are the things you can do to deal and avoid GERD:
- Smoking will further worsen the condition of GERD so it has to be stopped.
- When sleeping, you need to lie on your left side. According to various studies, doing so has reduced the night time acid reflux in patients. More information in preventing nighttime heartburn article.
- Another technique when sleeping would be to sleep with the head elevated with the use of wooden bed risers, a therapeutic bed wedge pillow or a mattress lifter. The elevation needs to be from 6 to 8 inches or 15 to 20 centimeters so that it will prevent the backflow of the gastric fluids.
- Consult a doctor. He will likely recommend medication for earlier forms of GERD and surgery for the most severe such as:
- Antacids that need to be taken before meals to reduce gastric acidity.
- Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) which reduces gastric secretion.
- Gastric H2 receptor blockers which are antihistamines that help relieve and treat GERD.
There are also surgical treatments for GERD just like the Nissen fundoplication which is done through laparoscopically. The top part of the stomach is wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter in order to strengthen the latter and prevent acid reflux.
Another form of treatment such as the transoral incisionless fundoplication or TIF is also commonly used. The surgeon makes use of a device called Esophyx to reconstruct the valve between the stomach and the diaphragm.