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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition caused when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and esophagus. Repeated backwash can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with lifestyle changes and medications.

Chest pain

Signs and Symptoms?

  • Burning sensation in our chest
  • Heartburn after eating and may worsen when lying down
  • A backwash of food or sour liquid
  • Chest pain
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • A sensation of a lump in your throat
  • A sensation of a lump in your throat

If you have nighttime acid reflux, you might also experience:

  • Ongoing cough
  • New worsening asthma
  • Larngytis of inflammation of the vocal cords

Seek immediate help if you experience these symptoms:

  • Frequent chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the jaw or arm (warning signs of a heart attack)
  • Experience severe or frequent GERD symptoms

What Causes Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?

Though there is no single and specific cause of GERD, there is a mechanism in your body that can increase the possibility of it. Acid reflux happens when your lower esophageal sphincter does not tighten or close properly. This allows digestive juices and other contents from your stomach to rise up into your esophagus. Other possible causes include:

  1. Hiatal hernia. It occurs when a part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm towards the chest. If the diaphragm is compromised, it can increase the likelihood that your LES can’t do its job correctly.
  2. Lying down too soon after large meals. As a result, the LES may not receive the required amount of pressure to function as it should.
  3. Frequently eating large meals. This can cause the distension of the upper part of the stomach. A distended LES may indicate that there isn’t enough pressure on it, and it doesn’t close properly.

GERD is also common or more likely to occur in people:

  • Obesity or people who are overweight because of increased pressure on the abdomen
  • Who are pregnant, affecting around 40–85% of people during pregnancy
  • People who take certain medications, such as asthma medications, calcium channel blockers, antihistamines, sedatives, and antidepressants
  • Who smoke and those with exposure to secondhand smoke

Ways to Diagnose Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

  • Upper endoscopy. It helps your doctor see inside your esophagus and stomach. Test results may not show problems when reflux is present, but an endoscopy may detect inflammation of the esophagus or other complications.
  • Esophageal manometry. In addition to measuring your esophageal muscles’ coordination and force, esophageal manometry measures your esophagus’s muscles’ coordination and force. This is typically done in people who have trouble swallowing.
  • Ambulatory acid probe test. When stomach acid regurgitates into your esophagus, a monitor is placed there to determine how long it lasts.
  • X-ray of the upper digestive system. A silhouette of your esophagus and stomach can be seen by your doctor because of the coating. This is particularly useful for people who are having trouble swallowing.
  • Transnasal esophagoscopy. Through your nose, an esophageal tube is passed with a video camera attached.

Treatment and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Your doctor is likely to recommend that you first try lifestyle changes and nonprescription medications. During the first few weeks of treatment, your doctor may prescribe prescription medication and recommend additional testing if you do not experience relief.

Medication Used for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Omeprazole is inactive in neutral pH. Prilosec is a Proton Pump Inhibitor that reduces gastric secretion. It works by decreasing the amount of acid produced by the stomach. This medicine is available both over-the-counter and with your doctor’s prescription.

Depressed girl smoking
Depressed girl smoking

Prevention Tips for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

  • Eat small meals frequently.
  • Finish eating 2 to 3 hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid eating very large meals.
  • Quit or avoid smoking.
  • Avoid strenuous activities after eating.
  • Lose weight if overweight.
  • Stay upright after eating.
  • Minimize wearing tight clothing around the abdomen.
  • Sleep at a slight angle with the head slightly elevated.

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