Gastrointestinal reflux disease—or GERD—is a relatively common condition in which stomach contents move backwards into the esophagus, triggering pain and heartburn. Over time, acids from the stomach can also permanently damage the lining of the esophagus. If you experience symptoms of GERD, it’s important to see your doctor right away, as early treatment can reduce complications. Continue reading to find out more about this condition.
Basics of Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease
In your esophagus, there is a ring of muscle fibers called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES. The job of the LES is to close after food moves from your esophagus to your stomach to prevent backflow. With GERD, the LES does not close completely, which allows partially digested foods and stomach acids to move into the esophagus. When these stomach contents move backwards, it is called reflux. The reflux causes heartburn, nausea, and the feeling that food is stuck in the chest area. Some sufferers also experience sore throats, hoarseness, coughing, and hiccups.
Causes of Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease
There are many different things that can cause GERD, and getting to the source of your symptoms is an important part of treatment. Some risk factors for GERD include obesity, pregnancy, smoking, hiatal hernia, and scleroderma. Certain medications are also linked to GERD symptoms; these medications include beta-blockers, sedatives, and bronchodilators.
Treatments for Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease
How your doctor treats your GERD depends on a number of different factors, including the severity of your symptoms and what the underlying cause is. In some cases, lifestyle changes, such as losing weight and stopping smoking, are enough to reverse symptoms. You may need to change your medications or start taking them with a full glass of water. Over-the-counter antacids may help in the short term, but they may also cause constipation and diarrhea. Your doctor may prescribe medications to ease your symptoms. If your GERD symptoms are persistent, surgery may be an option.
If you have GERD symptoms, ask for a referral to the Heart Burn & Swallowing Disorder Center at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. We offer treatment for GERD sufferers ranging from medications to surgery. You can get more information about our hospital by calling (888) 741-5119.