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What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

 Overview

GERD is one of the most common chronic conditions among adults.

Sometimes called “acid reflux” and other times “heartburn“, the problem of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) affects millions of people around the world.

By definition, Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a heartburn condition that involves the stomach’s acidic digestive juices flowing backwards into the esophagus and irritating this passage.

This could be as a result of an abnormality with reflux or swallowing malfunction, which in most cases makes patients prone to recurring and worsening heartburn pain.

Common symptoms include but are not limited to:

Burning sensation at the back of your throat, chest burning and even chest pain or discomfort that worsens after eating, difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) or regurgitation of food from the esophagus into the mouth, it typically comes up in one big reflex for some people – often accompanied by a sour taste (acetous belching).

It affects millions of people every year and ninety percent go undiagnosed.

Acid reflux can be treated by altering certain lifestyle factors and taking medications, but the general rule is that if the symptoms aren’t causing any noticeable damage, then it may not be necessary to take actions to manage them.

How do you know if you have it?

In this article we discuss the signs to look for and how prevention can be done from your side.

It is also important to consult your doctor should you experience any of the below symptoms.

 

GERD Symptoms

 

There are several symptoms associated with GERD, and many people do not understand what is happening in their body when their symptoms arise.

Symptoms tend to get worse when you lie down. It also gets worse after a meal or certain foods such as chocolate, mints, caffeinated drinks, citrus fruits or fatty foods.

Smoking also causes damage to the esophageal lining so it is a good idea to stop smoking if possible while working on getting control of GERD symptoms.

Some studies show that pregnant women with GERD can pass on problems associated with GERD (such as asthma) to their developing babies during pregnancy through intrauterine exposure to gastric contents that are not properly handled.

If you have acid reflux, you might develop a bitter or sour taste at the back of your mouth.

The most common symptoms of GERD include:

  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Pain When Swallowing
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Chronic Cough
  • A Hoarse Voice
  • Bad Breath
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

Should you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it is important to contact your doctor to make an appointment.

gerd chest pain - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

 

GERD Causes

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is the backward flow of stomach acid through the esophageal sphincter. Typically, it can happen a few times a year and it causes heartburn and indigestion.

Although some people think that GERD can be cured by diet alone, then they may need to read on to find out how nutritional medicine and lifestyle management could help them.

There are several factors that can make it more likely that you’ll have GERD, the most common factors are as follows:

  • Smoking
  • Large meals
  • Eating before bed
  • Certain medications
  • Certain foods i.e., chocolate, coffee, fatty foods, or alcohol
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Delayed emptying of stomach

One of the most common causes of GERD, they tend to be caused by acid in the digestive tract, which can weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, causing it to open, releasing acid directly into the esophagus.

If people are eliminating these trigger foods and adding healthier ones but still have problems with discomfort or heartburn, then there’s a possibility that one of these other factors is at play.

People with GERD need to keep a careful eye on what they’re eating–foods that are spicy hot, or full of sugar or fat should be avoided.

Instead, try consuming more dry sweeteners in place of regular sugar and notice if there’s any difference; this may help reduce symptoms without sacrificing flavor.

Also try out healthier grass-fed low glycemic index carbohydrates that are whole grain based instead.

gerd explained - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

GERD Prevention: Diet and Lifestyle

 

Basically, the eating plan and lifestyle changes that are required to keep GERD symptoms in check are designed to reduce stomach acidity and improve digestion.

This can be achieved by keeping a journal of meals, beverages and snacks consumed over a period of time.

While journaling is taking place, also keep track of any other variables that might be contributing to GERD such as aggressive or inappropriate eating behavior or exercise patterns.

Once you’ve identified potential triggers using journaling, you can start working on your change program by implementing prescribed diet changes from a suitable resource.

By making small but effective changes at the ground level of your lifestyle and habits, like cutting out processed foods or adding more whole foods into your diet, GERD symptoms will lessen — along with any medications needed for the treatment.

The following may lessen your symptoms of GERD:

  • Elevate your head when sleeping
  • Avoid food triggers such as chocolate, peppermint, fatty foods etc
  • Eating smaller servings
  • Eat slowly
  • Stop smoking
  • Remain at a healthy weight
  • Wear loose clothes
  • Chew your food thoroughly

gerd foods to avoid - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?


GERD Treatment

Many sufferers are prescribed medication such as antacids or proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to help soothe the discomfort associated with GERD.

However, natural remedies have also been shown to be useful in treating GERD and many people take herbal supplements like ginger root, peppermint tea or slippery elm to help alleviate symptoms.

Diet can also play a part in relief from symptoms of GERD – those who suffer are often advised to avoid spicy foods and fatty meals.

Your doctor might also suggest that you take over-the-counter medications such as antacids, receptor blockers and pump inhibitors.

 

Diagnosing GERD

 

Diagnosing GERD is a process that requires the elimination of any other possible conditions that could be causing your symptoms in order to identify whether you have reflux or not.

It’s best to visit your doctor first and get put through a series of examinations and tests, such as gastroscopy, ultrasound scans, barium swallow or pH monitoring to determine what the root cause of your condition is.

GERD can severely affect the quality of your life but diagnosing the problem and finding a solution doesn’t have to be difficult.

Unfortunately, standard diagnostic practices such as a barium swallow, esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), X-ray and CT scan often turn up inconclusive results.

This leaves doctors unable to properly assist their patients.

If you experience GERD two or more times a week, it is a chronic condition that’s not just uncomfortable, but can have long-term effects on your health.

Talk with your doctor so you can get the proper treatment to be pain-free.

what is gerd heartburn - What is GERD and How to Deal with It?

 

When To See a Gastroenterologist

There is no one definitive answer to the question of when to see a gastroenterologist.
However, there are some general guidelines that can help you decide when to seek medical help.

In essence, GERD symptoms are the consequence of a weakened LES but may be treated, in most cases, with OTC medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery if needed.

Undergoing a lifestyle inspection and changing habits where applicable may mean the difference between continuously treating GERD symptoms and never having to deal with the problem of a lax lower oesophageal sphincter in the first place.

Prevention is better than cure.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should see a gastroenterologist as soon as possible:

  • Nausea
  • Chest pain
  • Pain When Swallowing
  • Difficulty Swallowing
  • Chronic Cough
  • A Hoarse Voice
  • Vomiting
  • Bloating

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GERD in Johannesburg, contact Dr. Schneider or book your consultation today. 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

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Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease: What Is It?

Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease: What Is It?

 Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Explained

Gastro-oesophageal reflux or commonly known as GERD is a chronic condition that occurs when the acidic contents of the stomach flow back into the oesophagus causing damage to oesophageal tissue.

Severe cases of heartburn may also be related to gastro-oesophageal reflux.

In short, people with gastro-oesophageal reflux have a defective oesophageal sphincter muscle that allows acidic stomach content to pass through too easily or frequently into their lower oesophagus.

The side effects of this condition include excess stomach acid and a burning sensation in the chest, which often radiates up to their throat and mouth.

This condition if left untreated for any extended period of time generally may lead to complications in the form of rotten teeth, ulcers or even cancer in some cases.

There are few common symptoms which can be easily identifiable, but in some cases may be very difficult to diagnose.

 

What Causes Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease

It’s estimated that the population of people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is as high as 60 million in the United States and other parts of the world.

The causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can be attributed to many things and present in many different ways.

There’s no single, shared cause of GERD, but most cases of GERD can be traced to one of three major contributing factors:

  • The diet of the person with GERD
  • An increase in gastric acid production
  • Increase in pressure

The diet of people with GERD is one of the most common causes and is often overlooked.

gastro oesophageal reflux symptoms 1 - Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease: What Is It?

Typical Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease

 

Reflux disease can cause a variety of symptoms that are commonly dismissed as the minor side effect of other ailments.

Heartburn, for instance, is usually just seen as an inconvenience or even a sign of overeating.

Typical Symptoms of GERD include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Acidic bitter taste
  • Burning Chest
  • Heartburn
  • Chronic Cough
  • Nausea
  • Hoarse Voice
  • Bad Breath

In some severe cases, acid can travel upwards with sufficient force and damage the teeth.

If you have previously been diagnosed with Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease, then you know how disruptive this condition can be in day-to-day life.

The good news is that there are a few ways that you can reduce these symptoms or even completely prevent them from occurring in most cases.

GERD Treatment

Left untreated, reflux disease can have serious impacts on your general health and quality of life through the accumulation of respiratory infections from post-nasal drip and throat infections brought on by the regurgitation of stomach acid into the throat.

Of course, it’s important to make sure you’re getting medical advice from professionals about how to best correct reflux problems before trying any self-treatments.

The main step in treating gastro-oesophageal reflux is to treat any underlying cause.

Treatments for this condition include:

  • Anti-spasmodic medications
  • Bulking agents
  • Antacids
  • Prostaglandins
  • Proton pump inhibitors.

Secondly, consider lifestyle changes that are known to relieve symptoms of this condition:

  • Sleeping with the head of the bed raised by at least six inches or more on two or more wooden blocks or bricks (several hardcover books work great)
  • Avoiding foods, you know trigger the reflux including coffee, chocolate, tomato sauces and alcohol.
  • Quit Smoking, not only will quitting smoking reduce GERD, but it can also reduce your risk for other health complications.
  • Eating small meals can also help avoid uncomfortable lumps that occur when the stomach contents stay too long in the oesophagus resulting not only of discomfort but also of regurgitation.
  • Losing weight, if overweight. Excess weight can put extra pressure on the stomach, which can cause acid reflux.
  • Lastly (and actually most importantly), one needs to lead a relaxed life without worries and stress otherwise these tend to exacerbate GERD symptoms.

More severe cases may need prescription medication or surgery. Your doctor is likely to recommend that you first try lifestyle modifications and over-the-counter medications.

If you don’t experience relief within a certain time, your doctor might recommend prescription medication or surgery.

Surgery is never the first treatment option for GERD.

gastro oesophageal diagnosis treatment 1 - Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease: What Is It?

The Diagnosis of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease

 

To properly diagnose gastro-oesophageal reflux, there are several factors to consider, including the symptoms the patient is experiencing, the nature of any complications caused by this medical condition and whether or not their symptoms are present during all meals.

Patient history, physical examination and even diagnostic imaging will be required to fully understand what’s causing these symptoms to develop.

Your doctor might be able to diagnose gastro-oesophageal reflux disease based on a physical examination and the symptoms you are experiencing.

To confirm GERD as your diagnosis or preventing complications, your doctor might recommend the following tests:

  • Chest X-ray
    A chest x-ray is an image of the internal organs and bones of the chest and the lungs. It can be helpful in diagnosing common ailments such as Gerd, asthma, and heart disease.
  • Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series
    Upper GI is a process by which doctors examine the area of the stomach, the esophagus, and the beginning of the small intestine; typically performed by administering a contrast agent and emptying the patient’s stomach and small intestine, and then withdrawing contrast agent and any gas or fluid if necessary.
  • Endoscopy
    Endoscopy is the examination of the interior of a body organ via a long, thin, tube with a light and a lens at the end.
  • Biopsy
    A biopsy is a tissue test which is used to detect diseases in the body. A biopsy is usually done by inserting a needle, which is guided by an ultrasound or CT scan, into the suspicious tissue or organ.
  • pH testing
    Performed with a thin, plastic tube armed with a sensor, it measures the amount of acid backing up into the esophagus

How to Prevent GERD

 

The best and safest way to prevent acid reflux from occurring is to change the things that cause reflux such as smoking, eating before you sleep, and avoiding foods that trigger reflux.

The following foods should be avoided with GERD:

  • Smoking
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate
  • Citrus fruits and drinks
  • Coffee/ingredients with caffeine
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • Peppermint
  • Tomato-based products
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Garlic and onions
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol abuse

 

gastro oesophageal reflux diet 1 - Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux Disease: What Is It?

Dr. Schneider Can Help

 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, while not commonly a serious disease, affects many people in the world today.

A variety of reasons such as increased obesity levels, poor dietary health, and increased risk factors such as alcohol and smoking play a big role in this disorder.

Should you experience some of the symptoms mentioned in this article, consider going to see your doctor to discuss the way forward.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GI tract conditions in Johannesburg, contact Dr Schneider at (011) 482-3010 or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za to book your consultation today. 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

Those who suffer from Gastroesophageal reflux disease experience heartburn or acid indigestion.

GERD, as it’s known, refers to a disorder of the digestive tract which affects the lower oesophageal sphincter (LES) in particular.

The LES muscle which is shaped like a ring can be found between the oesophagus and the stomach. It is this muscle that is largely responsible for GERD symptoms.

The LES operates by stopping food and acidic stomach fluids from flowing back into the oesophagus.

This function is performed by opening for food to pass into the stomach and then closing afterwards to prevent unwanted backflow.

When the LES weakens or relaxes when it shouldn’t, stomach contents are able to go back up into the oesophagus and cause the associated symptoms such as heartburn, or acid indigestion.

gerd symptoms and treatment - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

 

Symptoms Expected with GERD

Heartburn is an often-felt symptom for those suffering from GERD and is something familiar to many people. The feeling is characterized as a burning sensation in the chest.

This pain starts behind one’s breastbone, almost behind the heart – hence the term “heartburn” – and moves up into the neck and throat.

The length of time in which this particular sensation is felt can vary with time depending on one’s posture – lying down or bending over can worsen, or even cause, it – but may last up to two hours in some cases.

People have reported feeling better after standing up if the heartburn sensation started while they were sitting or lying down so that may be an immediate, short-term solution to dealing with the pain.

Medicinally, antacid tablets can be taken to help clear out the acid in the oesophagus and relieve one of the burning sensations.

Additional GERD Symptoms

Other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, besides the physical pain, can include a host of others such as:

Night-time Acid Reflux Symptoms

At night, due to the laying down posture, acid reflux is known to commonly occur.
The angle makes it much more difficult for an already weakened sphincter to remain closed in the face of acid backflow.

Night-time acid reflux presents with additional signs and symptoms including:

  • Poor sleep quality due to frequent disruptions
  • Asthma occurrence or worsening of an existing condition
  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis due to the acidic irritation from reflux

 gastro oesophageal reflux - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

When to See a Doctor

Due to the physical location of the chief symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease – behind the heart.

People experiencing GERD often mistake heartburn pain for actual heart pain thereby falsely self-diagnosing a heart disease or a heart attack.

The difference cannot be told by you though so if you do experience this pain, it is always best to seek professional medical help to make a correct diagnosis and implement a treatment plan if necessary.

One should also go see one’s doctor if symptoms are experienced several times a week, the symptoms are severe, one has difficulty breathing, or when over-the-counter medications are not working.

gerd treatment - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux 

Typical Treatments for GERD

Treating GERD involves a combination of self-help measures, over the counter (OTC) medicines, and, in more severe cases, stronger prescription medicines.

Self-help measures just involve more knowledge of food consumption habits such as eating smaller but more frequent meals, keeping to a healthy weight, not eating large meals late at night, and avoiding any food or drink that you know may trigger symptoms.

By maintaining a healthy physique, less pressure is being put on the physiological system which allows it to perform at a more optimal level.

When the body is healthy, things tend to work better throughout the biological system – gastrointestinal tract included.

OTC medicine is only necessary when symptoms arise. However, long-term treatment may indeed be needed, and this may involve prescription medicine as determined by one’s doctor.

Surgery is the last and most serious measure to be taken. It may be recommended by one’s doctor if medication is not preventing stomach acid from moving up into the oesophagus.

Over-The-Counter Medications

 

  1. Antacids can be used to neutralize stomach acid. These don’t heal an inflamed oesophagus damaged by stomach acid though. It’s also important to note that overuse of certain antacids can cause unwanted side effects such as diarrhoea.

 2. H-2-receptor blockers are used to reduce acid production in the stomach. These don’t perform their intended functioning as quickly as antacids, but they do provide longer relief and may provide useful effects for up to 12 hours such as reducing the acid production.

3.  Proton pump inhibitors perform two important functions in that they block acid production and heal the oesophagus. They are stronger acid blockers than H-2-receptor blocker and thus allow time for the oesophageal tissue to heal.

These are available without a prescription from pharmacies. As with any medication, it’s always best to consult with your doctor before you take any new medicine.

 

Prescription Medications

 

  1. Prescription-strength H-2 receptor blockers, while stronger and potentially more effective, carry extra risk with long-term use such as vitamin B-12 deficiency.
  1. Prescription-strength proton pump inhibitors, as above, are stronger and potentially more effective will carrying the risk for side effects such as headache, nausea and vitamin B-12 deficiency with chronic use.
  2. LES-strengthening medication may reduce the frequency of LES relaxations thereby decreasing GERD symptoms, but it does come with the risk of side effects such as fatigue and nausea. 

symptoms of gerd - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

Surgery and New Procedures

Medication is normally enough to control GERD symptoms but where medication is undesirable or ineffective, a doctor may recommend one of the following procedures:

  1. A LINX device. This is essentially a ring of very small magnetic beads which is used to control GERD symptoms from flaring up. It does this by being wrapped around the junction of the stomach and oesophagus.

    The magnetic force between the beads then keeps the junction closed to refluxing acid but the force is weak enough to allow food through. The device can be inserted using minimally invasive surgery allowing for a quicker recovery time and less damage to surrounding tissue.

  2. Fundoplication. A laparoscopic procedure is used to wrap the top of the stomach around the less to tighten the muscle thereby preventing reflux. 
  3. Transoral incision-less fundoplication (TIF) is a new procedure whereby the LES is tightened by creating a partial wrap around the lower oesophagus using polypropylene faster.

    An endoscope is used to perform the procedure through the mouth which means no surgical incision is required. Picking this option means a faster recovery time and can be tolerated by a higher percentage of patients.

 

Typical Symptoms of Gastro Oesophageal Reflux - Typical Symptoms and Treatment of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

 

Summary

 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, while not commonly a serious disease. affects many people in the Western world today for a variety of reasons including increased obesity levels, poor dietary health, and increased risk factors such as alcohol and smoking.

In essence, GERD symptoms are the consequence of a weakened LES but may be treated, in most cases, with OTC medication, lifestyle changes, and surgery if needed.

Undergoing a lifestyle inspection and changing habits where applicable may mean the difference between continuously treating GERD symptoms and never having to deal with the problem of a lax lower oesophageal sphincter in the first place.

Prevention is better than cure.

But should you need a cure, we have you covered.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GI tract conditions in Johannesburg, contact Dr Schneider at (011) 482-3010 or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za to book your consultation today.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.

Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

Gastroesophageal reflux disease refers to a digestive disorder affecting the lower oesophagal sphincter, or LES. This LES muscle is shaped like a ring and is found between your stomach and your oesophagus.

Typically, you will know that you suffer from GERD if you experience heartburn or acid indigestion.

This leads to an understanding of the lower oesophagal sphincter’s function. In essence, it stops food and acidic stomach fluids from flowing back into your oesophagus.

The LES achieves this function by opening to allow food into your stomach and then closing to prevent backflow.

When the LES weakens or relaxes when it shouldn’t, stomach contents are able to go back up into the oesophagus and cause the associated symptoms such as heartburn, or acid indigestion.

Symptoms of GERD

Commonly, GERD is associated with heartburn which, as many people will have experienced at some point in their lives at least once, is characterized by a burning chest sensation.

This pain starts behind one’s breastbone, almost behind the heart – hence the term “heartburn” – and moves up into the neck and throat.

It can be described as a feeling of having one’s food making its way to one’s stomach thereby leaving an acidic or bitter taste.

The length of time in which this particular sensation is felt can vary with time depending on one’s posture – lying down or bending over can worsen, or even cause, it – but may last up to two hours in some cases.

People have reported feeling better after standing up if the heartburn sensation started while they were sitting or lying down so that may be an immediate, short-term solution to dealing with the pain.

Medicinally, antacid tablets can be taken to help clear out the acid in the oesophagus and relieve one of the burning sensation.

Additional GERD Symptoms

Other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, besides the physical pain, can include a host of others such as:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid due to the acidic reflux that occurs
  • The sensation of a lump in the throat.

Night-time Acid Reflux Symptoms

Night-time acid reflux is also known to commonly occur as a consequence of the body’s angle while laying down thereby making it harder for a weakened sphincter to remain closed.

Night-time acid reflux presents with additional signs and symptoms including:

  • Poor sleep quality due to frequent disruptions
  • Asthma occurrence or worsening of an existing condition
  • Chronic cough
  • Laryngitis due to the acidic irritation from reflux.

when to see a doctor - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

When to See a Doctor

Due to the physical location of the chief symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease – behind the heart.

People experiencing GERD often mistake heartburn pain for actual heart pain thereby falsely self-diagnosing a heart disease or a heart attack.

The difference cannot be told by you though so if you do experience this pain, it is always best to seek professional medical help to make a correct diagnosis and implement a treatment plan if necessary.

One should also go see one’s doctor if symptoms are experienced several times a week, the symptoms are severe, one has difficulty breathing, or when over-the-counter medications are not working.

gerd complications - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

Risks Factors for Gastroesophageal

Reflux Disease

Heartburn is experienced by many people at least once a month. In fact, some studies put that number at about 40%. That’s 40% of the Western population experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms on a reoccurring basis.

Even children and infants commonly experience GERD symptoms with the most common symptom being continuously occurring vomiting.

Breathing problems and coughing can also be observed as additional knock-on effects of GERD symptoms.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common factors that may increase your likelihood of developing GERD.

By understanding particular lifestyle choices and how they overtly increase the chances of developing GERD, conscious choices can be made to avert a course collision with this acid reflux disease.

Obesity

Obesity as always, is one of the chief culprits here with an increased body fat content greatly contributing to the likelihood of developing health problems including GERD.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy is also a risk factor in that it can increase the chance of acid reflux from occurring.

Symptoms should subside, apart from the result of medication use, once the period of pregnancy has been passed.

Connective Tissue Disorders

Connective Tissue Disorders have been known to increase the risk of developing GERD.

Scleroderma is a condition in which the immune system damages healthy tissue and replaces it with scar tissue which causes thickening and tightening of the skin as well as internal damage to organs and other systems.

The gastrointestinal tract is also affected by this condition with inflammation and thickening of the connective tissue.

The oesophagus is the most commonly affected part of the gastrointestinal tract in people with scleroderma and, as a result, GERD signs are quite common.

In fact, around 90% of scleroderma patients exhibit signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease, sometimes referred to as oesophagal scleroderma.

A Hiatal Hernia

A hiatal hernia is another disorder that may increase one’s probability of developing GERD.

In this condition, the stomach bulges into the chest through an opening in the diagram called the hiatus.

Some in the medical community believe that a hiatal hernia runs the risk of weakening the lower oesophagal sphincter and therefore raising the chances of experiencing gastroesophageal reflux.

One does not automatically result in the other but a hiatal hernia does make it easier for stomach contents to reflux up and into the oesophagus.

Causes of hiatal hernia are often age-related with those over 50 witnessing a higher chance of developing it.

Many who have slight hiatal hernia are actually unaware of the condition with no or very mild symptoms.

Several factors that can worsen the symptoms of acid reflux include many of the usual culprits such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

Other factors that put increased pressure on the gastrointestinal system such as eating large meals or eating late at night, eating particular trigger foods, and certain medications, should also be avoided where possible as this can lead to complications in the GI tract health and may result in GERD symptoms.

how to treat gerd - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

How to Treat GERD Symptoms

Treating GERD involves a combination of self-help measures, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, and, in more severe cases, stronger prescription medicines.

Self-help measures just involved more knowledge of food consumption habits such as eating smaller but more frequent meals, keeping to a healthy weight, not eating large meals late at night, and avoiding any food or drink that you know may trigger symptoms.

OTC medicine is only necessary when symptoms arise. However, long-term treatment may indeed be needed and this may involve prescription medicine as determined by one’s doctor.

Surgery is the last and most serious measure to be taken. It may be recommended by one’s doctor if medication is not preventing stomach acid from moving up into the oesophagus.

GERD Complications and Long-Term Effects

Long-term GERD symptoms may result in damage to the oesophagus due to the erosive nature of stomach acid.

This erosive damage can then lead to further problems including the following:

  • Oesophagal scarring and narrowing which then may make swallowing difficult and could require surgery.
  • Ulcers on the oesophagus which may, in turn, cause additional symptoms due to the possibility of bleeding.
  • In rare cases, the cells in the oesophagus may change to become pre-cancerous. The condition is referred to as Barret’s Esophagus and comes with an increased chance of developing cancer.

Infographic Typical Symptoms of Gastro Oesophageal Reflux - Symptoms of Gastro-Oesophageal Reflux

Summary

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, while not commonly a serious disease affects many people in the Western world today for a variety of reasons including increased obesity levels, poor dietary health, and increased risk factors such as alcohol and smoking.

Those suffering from GERD are also found among pregnant women as well as children.

In essence, GERD symptoms are the consequence of a weakened LES but may be treated, in most cases, with OTC medication and lifestyle changes.

For more information on the diagnosis and treatment of GI tract conditions in Johannesburg, contact Dr Schneider at (011) 482-3010 or visit www.gidocjhb.co.za to book your consultation today.

 

DISCLAIMER: PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

The information on this website is to provide general guidance. In no way does any of the information provided reflect definitive medical advice and self-diagnoses should not be made based on information obtained online. It is important to consult a Gastroenterologist or medical doctor regarding ANY and ALL symptoms or signs including, but not limited to: abdominal pain, haemorrhoids or anal / rectal bleeding as it may a sign of a serious illness or condition. A thorough consultation and examination should ALWAYS be performed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Be sure to call a physician or call our office today and schedule a consultation.