GERD: Common Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also known as GERD or acid reflux, is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system. Basically, the disease occurs when the digestive stomach acid is regurgitated to the esophagus. Occasionally, the food content in the stomach may also flow back. The relatively harsh material from the reflux will cause the irritation of the food pipe. The severity of the disease will depend on the condition of the sphincter muscle between the stomach and the esophagus. Long-term GERD is relatively common; however, in most cases, people will experience short-term acid reflux without any chronic complications.
Common Causes of GERD
The primary cause of GERD is the dysfunction or failure of the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. This is the band that prevents food from leaving the stomach after ingestion through the food pipe. While this physiological problem can affect anyone, there are individuals who are at a higher risk. For example, obesity will increase the risk of acid reflux due to the unhealthy high body mass index. The regurgitation is higher in people with hiatal hernia, a condition in which the upper part of the stomach bulges slightly into the diaphragm. In addition, abnormally high acid secretion, pregnancy, high calcium levels, and use of some drugs can increase your risk of having GERD.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of GERD early. This will allow you to seek early intervention and, consequently, prevent unnecessary long-term complications. The most obvious sign of the condition is heartburn, and the affected person will also experience the regurgitation and taste the stomach acid in the mouth. There are other less obvious symptoms that are caused by the acidity. These include chest pain, nausea, abnormally increased salivation and coughing. GERD may affect children, but symptomatic detection is harder because they might not be able to describe the indicators. However, the common signs include continual spitting up, vomiting, bad breath and unusual shifts in appetite.
There are different treatments that are employed after the physician confirms that the patient has GERD. Lifestyle modification is recommended for managing the symptoms of the condition. For example, avoiding foods with acids, harsh spices and fats might reduce acid levels and, in turn, the symptoms. Moreover, weight loss can decrease the risk of reflux acceleration. Medication such as PPIs, antacids and similar drugs can alleviate the corrosive power of the regurgitated stomach content. In severe cases, surgery might be recommended to strengthen the structure of the sphincter muscle, preventing its uncontrolled movement.
You should always seek the guidance of a qualified physician before taking medication for GERD since if untreated or treated in the wrong way, the disease may become chronic with many health complications.