What you need to know about Gastroesophageal reflux disease


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that affects the lower esophageal sphincter. There are many people experiencing GERD, including pregnant women. In fact, it is the most common digestive condition to cause heartburn or acid indigestion.

In GERD, the stomach contents leak backward from the stomach into the esophagus, causing discomfort and could lead to esophageal mucosal injury. This happens because of a damaged lower esophageal sphincter. When this sphincter doesn’t close all the way, the content can leak from the stomach to the esophagus.

You should go to see you doctor or take the test to diagnose with GERD when your signs and symptoms occur at least twice each week or if GERD causes any difficulties in your daily life. GERD can be treated by making lifestyle changes and using some non-prescriptions medications. Sometimes, it requires strong medications or even surgery to relieve the symptoms.

What are the causes of Gastroesophageal reflux disease?

Stomach acid or bile into the esophagus is determined to be the main causes of GERD.

Naturally, food and liquid will flow down into your stomach. When you swallow, the lower esophageal sphincter around the bottom part of your esophagus will relax to let the foods go to your stomach. After that, it closes again.

However, if abnormalities or weaknesses happen in this valve, it will allow the stomach’s content to flow back up into your esophagus. This process is called acid reflux. When acid reflux happens repeatedly, it can cause other gastrodigestive symptoms.

Who is at risk of Gastroesophageal reflux disease?

Your risk of GERD can be increased by many factors, such as:

  • Obesity;
  • Hiatal hernia;
  • Pregnancy;
  • Smoking;
  • Dry mouth;
  • Asthma;
  • Diabetes;
  • Delayed stomach emptying;
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma.

What are the symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease?

You may find that you have GERD if you have following symptoms:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), sometimes spreading to the throat, along with a sour taste in your mouth;
  • Chest pain;
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia);
  • Dry cough;
  • Hoarseness or a sore throat;
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux);
  • The sensation of a lump in your throat.

How is gastroesophageal reflux disease diagnosed?

Your doctor will base on your symptoms to diagnose GERD. Probably, some tests may be performed to confirm your condition, such as:

  • Ambulatory acid (pH) probe tests use a device to measure acid for 24 hours.
  • Endoscopy uses a flexible tube to look inside your esophagus and collecting some sample of tissue (biopsy) for further testing.
  • Some tests to measure the movement of the esophagus are also performed to measure pressure in the esophagus.
  • An X-ray of your upper digestive system uses barium and water mixture to coat the inner digestive system, making the esophagus stand out in the x-ray.

What are the treatments for gastroesophageal reflux disease?

Many people treat GERD by using over-the-counter treatments at home, which may include:

  • Antacids that balance stomach acids, such as Maalox, Mylanta, Gaviscon, Rolaids, and Tums, may provide quick relief.
  • Called H-2-receptor blockers, these medications include cimetidine (Tagamet HB), famotidine (Pepcid AC), nizatidine (Axid AR) or ranitidine (Zantac).
  • Medications that block acid production and heal the esophagus, include lansoprazole (Prevacid 24 HR) and omeprazole (Prilosec, Zegerid OTC).

You may need surgery and other procedures if your symptoms get worse and medications don’t help.

How can I manage my Gastroesophageal reflux disease?

GERD can be managed by changing some lifestyle habits, which can affect your overall health. You can consider trying these methods to get relieved:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoid tight-fitting clothing.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that trigger heartburn, such as fried food, ketchup, chocolate, spicy food, onion.
  • Avoid eating the big meal.
  • Avoid lying down after the meal.
  • Avoid smoking.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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