GERD: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition where acid from the stomach comes up into the oesophagus (oesophagus is referred as food pipe; it is a tube that transports food from mouth to the stomach). Most people experience GER but if an individual has persistent acid reflux more than twice a week, it is diagnosed as GERD.

Symptoms of Gastroesophageal reflux disease:

The main symptom of GERD is heartburn. It is discomfort felt behind breastbone as burning sensation and increases on lying down, bending or after eating and may be worse during the night.

But many people also experience other symptoms also like

  • Vomiting sensation
  • Bad breath
  • Respiratory problems
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid

In the case of acid reflux at night time, the person might experience the following –

  • Coughing
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Inflammation in larynx

Causes of Gastroesophageal reflux disease:

People commonly experience acid reflux which, can be due to overeating, lying down just after eating or due to any particular food.

GERD has more risk factors involved and can occur very frequently. It can occur in people of all the ages. The reason is that when the sphincter of the oesophagus (present at the bottom) becomes weak or doesn’t open when needed.

GERD can occur more commonly in people with 

  • Increased weight due to an increase of pressure on the abdomen
  • Pregnant women due to the increase in pressure
  • People who are on medications for asthma, hypertension, allergies, sedatives, and antidepressants
  • Smoking and being exposed to smoke
  • A hiatal hernia – where an opening in the diaphragm moves the top of stomach move up into the chest

Treatment of Gastroesophageal reflux disease:

GERD is mostly treated with medications in case it doesn’t subside by removing the causative factors.  The drugs of choice are Proton pump inhibitors which decrease the amount of acid produced by the stomach.

Other options include –

  • H2 blockers - This helps to decrease acid production.
  • Antacids - these counteract the acid in the stomach with alkalinity. Side effects include diarrhoea.
  • Prokinetics - They help the stomach empty faster. Side effects include diarrhoea, nausea, and anxiety.
  • Erythromycin - it helps empty the stomach.

It’s important to modify lifestyle and change dietary patterns which prove to be beneficial for most of the people. By medications, an attempt is made to decrease the amount of acid reflux or reduce the damage by acid on the wall of the oesophagus.

Surgical treatment:

When lifestyle and medications don’t improve the condition, surgical treatments can be used to correct GERD.

  • Fundoplication – it is sewing the top of the stomach around the oesophagus, this adds pressure to the lower end of the oesophagus and reduces acid reflux.
  • Endoscopic procedures – it is done to tighten the sphincter muscle.

Foods that should be avoided:

Chocolate, peppermint, fatty and fried food, coffee and alcoholic beverages should be avoided. Also, citrus fruits and juices, tomato products and pepper can irritate and cause damage to the oesophageal lining should be avoided if they cause symptoms.

It’s always important to consult a doctor before starting any medication.

Also, Read:

Psoriasis: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment


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