GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is the chronic form of acid reflux, when acid from the stomach continues to backflow into the mouth through the esophagus, causing acidity, heartburn, a sense of constriction in the throat and even difficulty swallowing. Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a valve at the end of the esophagus, which is supposed to tighten the esophagus once food passes into the stomach, malfunctions and doesn’t shut properly. The acid backwash leaves an uncomfortable, persistent sour taste in the mouth.
What are the known symptoms of GERD?
Common symptoms include:
# Bad breath
# Tooth enamel damage from hyperacidity
# Feeling of backflow of stomach contents
# Pain in the chest region
# Difficulty swallowing
# Dry cough
# Breathing distress
Are there any known causes of GERD?
While intermittent heartburn and acid reflux should not be too much cause for concern, GERD is a chronic condition where old habits and individual anatomy could play a role. Some probable causes include:
# Obesity that puts extra load on the stomach
# Hiatal hernia which tends to relax the LES
# Certain medicines which weaken the LES, like anti-allergics, painkillers, sedatives and antidepressants
How can GERD be controlled?
Symptoms of GERD can be controlled through treatment and lifestyle modifications, like:
# Diet correction
# Quitting smoking
# Losing weight
# Exercising regularly
# Not drinking
# Eating smaller meals
# Avoiding tight-fitting clothes
# Sitting upright at least 3 hours after food
What are the diagnostic tools for detecting GERD?
# 24-hour impedance-probe study: In this diagnostic procedure, a flexible tube is inserted into the nose and pushed into the esophagus. The probe is fitted with sensors that can detect acid reflux into the esophagus.
# Upper GI tract endoscopy: A special tube fitted with a camera at its tip helps the doctor identify signs of damage in the intestines including ulcers, tumours or inflammation. Usually, a tissue sample is also taken for biopsy.
What medicines are prescribed for GERD?
# OTC antacids: Antacids help reduce the symptoms of acid reflux by reducing the impact of stomach acids.
When antacids don’t work with GERD, other options are used, like:
# H2 blockers: These include medicines like famotidine which curtail acid production in the stomach, thus relieving symptoms.
# PPIs: Proton pump inhibitors like esomeprazole and pantoprazole, besides reducing acid production, can also help heal the stomach lining.
# Surgery: If medication doesn’t work, the doctor might advise surgery to tighten the LES.
What are the common complications of GERD one should know of?
If GERD is left untreated, stomach acid backwash can damage the lining of the esophagus, leading to:
The corrosive acid can also cause a condition called ‘Barrett’s esophagus’ which elevates chances of a type of esophageal cancer. Around 10 to 15% of GERD patients are at risk.
When does one need emergency treatment for GERD?
Some such red-flag symptoms include:
# Persistent projectile vomiting
# Respiratory distress
# Difficulty swallowing
# Throwing up fluids with blood or coffee-like stuff
What is the prognosis for GERD?
Symptoms of GERD are usually controllable with medication and certain lifestyle changes including diet modification and correcting eating and sleeping habits. You can improve your quality of life considerably by diligently following the doctor’s advice.
Our Gastro Intestinal diseases department at Medica North Bengal Clinic provides comprehensive diagnostic and treatment facilities for all diseases/conditions related to the digestive tract, with 24×7 emergency services for aggravated conditions needing immediate intervention.