A lot of people are asking, what is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is a chronic condition that when a person gets it, it continues throughout that person’s life. Physicians advice people with GERD to remain on lifelong medication so that they do not experience recurrent symptoms.
GERD generally occurs when stomach acid splashes up the esophagus and irritate the lining causing signs and symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux to be felt. When these symptoms are felt for more than twice a week and start interfering with the individual’s daily life, the usual diagnosis is gastroesophageal reflux disease.
What is GERD – Signs and Symptoms
The following are the more common signs and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease:
- Acid reflux
- Burning sensation in the chest or heartburn
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry cough
- Hoarseness or sore throat
- Sour taste in the mouth
- A feeling of having a lump in the throat
There are some medical conditions that can increase an individual’s risk of developing GERD. These medical conditions include:
- Connective tissue disorders
- Hiatal hernia
- Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
What is GERD – Treatment for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
At the onset of gastroesophageal reflux disease, most people choose to use over the counter medications. However, if the symptoms persist even after using an OTC treatment for two or three weeks, doctors recommend that people see their physicians for a complete examination.
Antacids can control the symptoms of GERD in some cases but these medications may not be helpful at all if the esophagus is already inflamed. Overusing antacids may also lead to side effects like diarrhea and constipation so be careful not to abuse this medication.
If antacids prove to be unhelpful, most people take H-2 receptor blockers like Pepcid and Zantac but these don’t act as fast as antacids do. These drugs however offer much longer relief from GERD symptoms. People tend to consult their physicians for prescription medications only when all OTC treatments they’ve tried don’t work. Physicians usually prescribe proton pump inhibitors which are medications that block acid production and help hasten the healing process of the esophagus. These drugs are also available over the counter.
If an individual’s GERD symptoms are not treated by medications, bought over the counter or prescribed, the alternative often recommended is surgery. There are surgeries and other procedures that can be performed to ease the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease:
- The Stretta system – this procedure involves forming scar tissue in the esophagus to damage the nerves that respond to stomach acid that has been refluxed. Electrode energy is used to heat esophageal tissue to create scar tissue.
- Nissen fundoplication – this is a surgical procedure that reinforces the lower esophageal sphincter by tightening it to stop acid reflux.
- EndoCinch – a surgical procedure that creates a barrier that prevents the backup of stomach acid. It places stitches in the stomach near the weakened sphincter, the stitches are tied together to prevent stomach acid from entering the esophagus.
Making some basic lifestyle changes is often enough to reduce the frequency of GERD symptoms. If you are prone to heartburn and acid reflux, you should start maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy foods and avoiding those that trigger heartburn. You should also refrain from going to bed after your last meal and if you smoke or drink alcohol, resolve to quit. Now that you know the answer to the question, what is GERD? – you should start doing something about it.