Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is a chronic condition in which acid and bile backwash into your throat which irritates the lining of your esophagus, resulting in frequent heartburn. Many people experience heartburn and acid reflux without any larger connection to the digestive disease GERD. In these situations, simple dietary changes and over the counter medications successfully treat the painful symptoms. GERD patients often do not experience relief from their heartburn with over the counter medication and the symptoms are frequent and persistent—often appearing more than twice every week.
There are several physical conditions that increase your risk for developing GERD, including:
- Hiatal Hernia
- Abnormal Esophageal Sphincter
- Slowed emptying of the stomach
One of the most successful forms of treatment for GERD is making lifestyle changes. Dietary and exercise habits have a large effect on the disease, and can help to cause a severe reduction in the acid reflux that prompts many of GERDs more severe symptoms, such as chest pain, nausea and laryngitis.
If you are suffering from frequent heartburn of GERD it is important that you keep track of your symptoms as you experience them. Your physician will be able to supply you with the best form of treatment if you have a solid understanding of dietary triggers and times of day that you experience the most discomfort.
If GERD is left untreated it could lead to several serious conditions, such as:
- Ulcers within the esophagus
- Strictures of the esophagus
- Barrett’s esophagus
- Esophageal Cancer
- Severe cough
- Inflammation of the throat
- Lung Infection
- Fluid buildup in the sinus’s and middle ear
There are several tests that your physician may recommend to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of GERD, including an x-ray, endoscopy or a pH test. In addition, your physician may recommend medication to help relieve the symptoms of your heartburn. Antacid medications are often prescribed to relieve heartburn alone. Prescription strength medications such as H-2 receptor blockers or proton pump inhibitors are often recommended for more severe cases of GERD.
Your physician will be able to work with you to develop the best form of treatment suited for your specific needs and symptom relief.