What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

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You may not recognize the name gastroesophageal reflux disease, but this condition has many other names that are much more common, including GERD, gastric reflux disease, acid reflux disease, and simply “reflux”.

This common condition can range in severity and consists of stomach acid rising up into the esophagus and damaging the tissues and walls there, causing discomfort and pain. Acid reflux disease (as it will be referred to for the rest of the article) is probably the most common digestive or gastrointestinal problem as 10% and 20% of America suffers from this condition in one form or another.

Cause

When the esophageal sphincter doesn’t close properly, it allows the acid to come up and cause GERD. This functional failure can be a result of obesity, the use of certain steroids, hernias, sleep apnea, and various other risk factors.

Symptoms

The major symptom of acid reflux disease is heartburn, which anyone can suffer from time to time, but chronic, painful heartburn is the biggest warning sign that you may be developing acid reflux disease.

While the major red flag is the heartburn, as that is the direct sensation of that stomach acid on the esophageal tissues, other symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Painful swallowing
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Excess saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Cavities
  • Inflamed gums
  • Hoarseness

Diagnosis

Gastroenterologists might make use of one or more of the following tests to confirm acid reflux disease:

  • Esophageal pH and impedance monitoring: This test is used to measure levels of acid in the This measures the esophagus while eating or sleeping.
  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscope: A tube with a camera attached is inserted into the esophagus. A small tissue sample may also be extracted in a biopsy.
  • Upper GI series: This is an X-ray of the upper digestive system that will examine if there are physical abnormalities that might cause GERD.
  • Esophageal manometry: This measures esophageal muscle contractions while swallowing. It can also measure the sphincter functioning.
  • Bravo wireless esophageal pH monitoring: A small temporary capsule is attached to the esophagus to continuously monitor the acidity for about 48 hours.

There are plenty of medications and treatments that can reduce the discomfort and regularity of acid reflux disease episodes, but many people prefer to take care of this problem at home, which is entirely possible if your case isn’t severe.

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