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April 20, 2017 | Health Advice

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as GERD, is a chronic disease of the digestive system. Flare-ups occur when stomach acid backflows into the esophagus causing irritation and inflammation of the esophageal lining. This process is known as “reflux” and it is caused by a failure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a small area of the esophagus that normally stays constricted to prevent reflux. Over time the inflammation caused by reflux may corrode the tissue of the esophagus leading to the creation of scar tissue, narrowing of the esophagus, and ulceration (open sores) of the esophagus.

Symptoms of GERD are usually worse following a meal, may last several hours, and often include:

  • A frequent burning sensation in the upper chest, neck, or throat commonly referred to as “heartburn” or “acid indigestion”
  • A bitter or acid taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty or pain with swallowing
  • Frequent burping
  • Chronic sore throat
  • A sudden excess of saliva

Treatment for this condition focuses on decreasing the volume and frequency of reflux, as well as mitigating the damage caused by the reflux. Treatment is likely to include:

  • Avoiding dietary triggers such as spicy or acidic foods, alcohol, and high-fat foods
  • Sleeping with an elevated head in order to allow gravity to reduce the amount of reflux
  • Smaller meals which reduce pressure on the LES
  • Weight loss
  • Quitting smoking
  • Over-the-counter antacids which may provide temporary relief by neutralizing stomach acid
  • Prescription medications that reduce the amount of acid produced by stomach
  • In extreme cases, surgery may be required to repair the LES

If you suffer from heartburn two or more times per week, if your heartburn has recently worsened, or if you experience any of the symptoms noted above, please speak with your healthcare provider to determine if you are experiencing GERD. Please call 715-531-6800 to schedule an appointment.