GERD: What You Need To Know About Acid Reflux And Heartburn ReliefheadingContent
Nearly 20 percent of the US population has a symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease or simply GERD at least once a week. GERD, often referred to as acid reflux or heartburn, occurs when gastric acidic contents reflux back into the esophagus resulting in a burning sensation behind the breast bone. Most patients will complain of worsening symptoms as soon as they lay down to sleep or after a large meal.
Two factors commonly contribute to GERD:
- Weakening of the valve between the esophagus and stomach (lower esophageal sphincter)
- Hiatal hernia which is the migration of the proximal stomach into the chest rendering the valve mechanism further incompetent
Although most patients with GERD complain of classic heartburn, other associated symptoms can be:
- Chest pain
- Sore throat
How you can treat your Acid Reflux symptoms?
Unfortunately, many patients make use of over-the-counter antacid medications which provide quick relief of symptoms but do not provide 24-hour acid protection and therefore do not prevent long-term complications of GERD. It is important that patients report GERD to their primary care physician or consult with a gastroenterologist about recurring reflux.
GERD is a chronic illness and, if left untreated, may lead to progressive inflammation and scarring of the distal esophagus with narrowing of the lumen resulting in difficult swallowing. More importantly, a smaller percentage of patients with longstanding GERD may develop Barrett’s esophagus which involves the replacement of the normal esophageal lining with an abnormal precancerous epithelium called Barrett’s esophagus.
The treatment of GERD involves important life-style modifications (weight loss, reduction of caffeine intake, smaller meals) and use of medications to reduce acid production in the stomach. Rarely, if medical therapy fails, surgery may be required. Consult your primary care or GI specialist about your GERD treatment options.