Know the Signs and Symptoms of GERD in Children and Adults
According to estimations, around 60 million people in the United States endure the fiery, burning symptom that we know as "heartburn" a minimum of once every month, with teenagers, children, and infants included in that number.
In about 20% of individuals, heartburn points to a more concerning disease referred to as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), a problem that can significantly affect the health and quality of life of individuals who live with it. In the event you or a member of your family notice persistent or severe symptoms pertaining to acid reflux, reach out to GI Alliance to connect with a GI specialist who offers GERD treatment near you.
What causes GERD to develop?
Situated at the lower end of your esophagus (where it meets the stomach) is a ring of muscle known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When you swallow food or liquids, the LES relaxes to permit food/drink to migrate into the stomach, tightening again to keep stomach acid from pushing back up. When this muscle fails, the acid may regurgitate into your esophagus, causing a burning sensation (heartburn) and possibly a bad taste in your mouth.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a disease that could occur in patients who frequently have problems with acid reflux. As time goes on, persistent regurgitation of stomach acid can induce long-term damage to the esophagus, causing considerable discomfort and an increased chance of other problems in or around the esophagus.
Though GERD is not generally caused by any one component, there are an array of issues that may lead to recurring acid reflux in children and adults, including:
- Consuming high-acidity or spicy foods
- Consuming large meals
- Smoking (or being exposed to secondhand smoke)
- Lying flat after eating
Younger patients (especially babies) could also be more prone to acid reflux simply because their GI muscles are not as developed.
What are common symptoms of GERD in children and adults?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease often produces several of the same signs and symptoms as acid reflux; however, they may occur more frequently (a minimum of twice a week at a moderate-to-severe level). Further signs and symptoms manifest in time due to repeated acid reflux. The more frequently occurring signs and symptoms of GERD in adults are:
- Pain in the chest area
- Frequent heartburn (burning sensation in the chest)
- A sensation of food stuck or a lump in the throat
- Dry cough
- Regurgitation of sour liquid or food
- Unpleasant breath
- Swallowing difficulties
- Sore, raw throat, or hoarse voice
In addition to the points discussed above, indications of GERD in children may involve:
- Breathing problems, including coughing and/or wheezing
- Refusing to feed (in infants)
- Trouble gaining weight
- Recurring episodes of vomiting or nausea (after infancy)
It is especially important to seek treatment for GERD in kids before it becomes a problem that interferes with their health and development. Should you or your child experience signs or symptoms that could result from persistent acid reflux, request a consultation with a GI Alliance gastrointestinal physician as soon as possible to review your options for treating GERD.
How is GERD typically identified and treated?
Our gastrointestinal doctors may assess your symptoms and check your esophagus for signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease with the help of an endoscope or a pH probe. Should you be diagnosed with the disease, your GI doctor might suggest implementing some lifestyle modifications, which may involve avoiding specific foods that stimulate acid reflux, losing excess weight, sitting upright or standing after eating, or avoiding smoking.
Your gastrointestinal specialist might also prescribe medications to reduce acid production or strengthen the LES to prevent stomach acid from regurgitating into the esophagus. For some individuals, a surgical procedure could be required to enhance the esophageal connection to the stomach. Treatment options for GERD in kids or adults could vary according to individual needs, so it's vital to see a GI specialist to make certain you receive the proper treatment for your unique needs.
Help for GERD in adults in children
Acid reflux signs and symptoms are common, but they might be the start of larger health concerns if neglected. The skilled gastroenterologists at GI Alliance are proud to offer various solutions to treat GERD in children and adults. To hear more about what causes GERD or to receive treatment, please request a consultation with our GI team.