Among the most common digestive problems that individuals can have throughout their lives is acid reflux. A typical symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, which is known as a burning discomfort centered around the heart that may intensify right after eating or when lying down. Infrequent acid reflux and heartburn are often nothing serious. But for patients experiencing these issues on a regular basis (more than two times each week), they may be an indication of a more serious disease known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.
Based on research, it’s estimated that 20% of people in the United States are currently living with GERD. This condition can lead to several severe complications. When you have frequent acid reflux and heartburn, a board-certified gastroenterologist at a GI Alliance location near you can help identify ways to ease this digestive condition.
Facts about GERD
GERD is a disease that affects the gastrointestinal (GI) system in which food and stomach acid travel back up the esophagus. If the digestive tract is in good condition, the LES (lower esophageal sphincter), a muscle between the esophagus from the stomach, acts as a valve and allows food to reach the stomach. It also helps prevent the contents of the stomach from traveling back up the esophagus. If the LES becomes too lax, acid reflux, heartburn, and various other symptoms can develop. GERD is characterized as chronic acid reflux. Individuals of all ages, including infants, can be diagnosed with acid reflux disease. If it’s left untreated, GERD may lead to persistent esophageal inflammation. This could eventually result in the accumulation of scar tissue, ulcers, or inflammation, along with a greater likelihood of esophageal cancer.
What causes GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a result of an improperly functioning LES. While the exact cause of LES dysfunction might be unidentified, there are many conditions that heighten the risk of this dysfunction and the symptoms of GERD. These include:
- Scleroderma (or other internal tissue diseases)
- Stomach hernia
- Being pregnant
Certain habits, such as smoking or using other tobacco products, may also aggravate acid reflux and be a risk factor for GERD. Certain medications can lead to GERD or increase its symptoms, including sedatives, calcium antagonists, some asthma medications, and anti-depressants.
What are the symptoms of GERD in adults?
The most typical sign of GERD is chronic heartburn. If you find yourself taking OTC antacids more than two times a week, this may be an indication of acid reflux disease. However, you can still have GERD even if you don’t experience heartburn. Common signs and symptoms of GERD, as well as silent GERD symptoms that don’t reside in the chest area, consist of:
- Tooth decay
- Trouble breathing
- Feeling a lump in the throat
- Trouble swallowing
- Postnasal drip
- Persistent coughing
What are the signs of reflux disease in infants?
As GERD may affect any person at any stage of life, it’s important to make a note of the symptoms as they develop in infants. The usual signs of acid reflux in babies include:
- Arching the back while or directly following meals
- Regular regurgitation
- Refusing to feed
- Frequent coughing
- Inadequate weight gain or even losing weight
- Swallowing difficulty
If your child has been exhibiting any of these chronic symptoms, talk to a gastrointestinal specialist at GI Alliance and schedule an evaluation as soon as possible.
Find relief from GERD
When acid indigestion or any other symptoms of GERD are impacting your quality of life, you can learn more about your options for managing this problem at GI Alliance. The board-certified gastroenterologists a GI Alliance are devoted to helping patients learn about and manage their gastrointestinal health while maintaining the highest clinical standards. Call a GI Alliance location near you to discover your GERD treatment options.