It refers to the flow of the acidic juices of the stomach into the esophagus (the food passage that links the oral cavity to the stomach).
It happens because the junction between the gullet and the stomach does not function normally, resulting in reflux.
What are the symptoms of GERD?
Heartburn (burning sensation of the chest that usually rises from the stomach to the throat)
Acid regurgitation (bitter or sour taste in the mouth)
Symptoms possibly associated with reflux
Burping or belching
Chest pain or discomfort
Hoarseness of voice
Persistent sore throat
What problems could be related to GERD?
Most people with GERD do not get severe problems other than the symptoms of reflux.
Long standing reflux may potentially cause:
Esophagitis- inflammation of the lower gullet
Stricture-Severe long standing inflammation can cause narrowing of the gullet lumen.
Barrett’s esophagus- changes to the cells of the lower esophagus, due to the damage done by the long standing acid reflux. Patients with Barrett’s esophagus have higher risk of esophageal cancer compared to the general population.
How is GERD diagnosed?
Reflux can be diagnosed by symptoms and the response to medication.
In some cases of GERD, inflammation of the gullet may be seen on endoscopy (a procedure when a flexible tube is placed via the mouth into the gullet and stomach)
Reflux can also be diagnosed with the help of 24-hour pH-monitoring – a tube is placed through the nose to the gullet and the acidity is measured.
When combined with Impedance testing (where a tube with multiple electrodes is inserted into the gullet), one can differentiate the contents of the reflux fluid, guiding the doctor in treatment.
Can lifestyle changes improve the symptoms of GERD?
Yes lifestyle changes can improve the symptoms, as described below:
You should try to avoid:
Very spicy food
You should also:
Avoid eating too much for each meal
Avoid eating within 2-3 hours before bedtime
Avoid lying down after meals
Eat regular meals
Raise the head of the bed if there is night-time symptoms
Reduce weight if you are obese
How is GERD treated?
Antacids acts by neutralizing the acidic gastric juice.
Prokinetics refer to drugs that improves the stomach emptying.