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Gerd

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GERD, which means gastro esophageal reflux disease, is often misconstrued as chronic acid reflux syndrome or chronic heartburn. GERD is defined as the reflux of bile and stomach acids that flow back up into the esophagus, causing serious inflammation and irritation of the lining of the esophagus. GERD can cause damage to the esophagus, which may or may not be able to be repaired. Over the counter medications are appropriate for generalized acid reflux or indigestion, but GERD requires appropriate treatments by a qualified physician.

GERD SYMPTOMS

The initial symptoms of GERD include heartburn, chest pain which usually worsens at night or when the body is reclined, difficulty swallowing, coughing, asthmatic symptoms or worsening asthma, wheezing, hoarseness, sore throat, or the regurgitation of either food or a sour liquid. Symptoms may be worse at night or after sunset.

GERD CAUSES

The esophagus is equipped with a flap that keeps the liquids and partially digested food in the stomach. This flap, known as the esophageal sphincter, opens briefly to allow food into the stomach. GERD is caused by the esophageal sphincter either relaxing too much or not closing entirely. Over time, this seeping and backwash of stomach acids can cause significant damage to the esophagus.

GERD RISK FACTOR

Risk factors for GERD include chronic heartburn, obesity, asthma, pregnancy, hiatal hernia, diabetes, peptic ulcer, connective tissue disorders, and Zollinger-Ellison syndrome. While it is unclear why patients with asthma have difficulty with GERD, the only reasonable explanation that doctors have been able to determine include the changes in pressure to the abdominal muscles due to chronic coughing.
Gerd
Image: Gerd

GERD DIAGNOSIS

Diagnosing GERD starts with a physical examination as well as a thorough medical history. Heartburn and acid reflux disease can cause similar symptoms, however treatments for indigestion typically do not adequately assist patients suffering from GERD. Physicians may not investigate for GERD unless treatments for heartburn have failed. Barium x-rays, endoscopy, ambulatory acid probe tests, and esophageal impedance tests can often determine the presence of GERD.

GERD can cause the esophagus to become narrow and constricted. It can also cause esophageal ulcers as well as Barrett’s esophagus. While not all that common, Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that causes the color of the lining of the esophagus to change and become precancerous. This is considered a very serious condition and requires prompt treatment. Other complications may include food related issues such as the inability to eat food or the lack of desire to eat food because of the pain that is known to follow.

GERD TREATMENT

Over the counter medications can often help but do not cure GERD. Antacids can keep some of the stomach acids under control, although it can not help the esophageal sphincter become more productive. H-2 receptor blockers can help to calm the symptoms associated with GERD and proton pump inhibitors keep stomach acids under control. Surgical procedures are often the most effective method of dealing with GERD. Surgical procedures can often restrict the excessive movement associated with the esophageal sphincter and create a flap that works as it is supposed to. This fix isn’t without its share of complications, but it can be much more effective at removing the symptoms of GERD from a patient’s life while creating a lifetime of appropriate muscle movements of the esophageal sphincter.

Patients suffering from GERD should take a few precautions that can help control or alleviate symptoms including weight control, the consumption of smaller meals, avoidance of laying down after a meal, a loose belt, the avoidance of stooping or bending, elevating the head of the bed, and the avoidance of cigarette smoke. Sometimes consuming small meals that do not have high acid content and aren’t likely to trigger excess stomach acids can help relieve the symptoms associated with GERD.
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