GERD is caused by frequent backing up of the stomach acids and bile. Muscle fibers line the bottom of the esophagus form the sphincter, and are supposed to keep the acids in the stomach. Occasionally the sphincter won’t close properly and results in stomach acid being able to go back into the esophagus. The sphincter not closing correctly can be a result of it being weakened or relaxing abnormally.
There are a lot of factors that can go into play and cause GERD. It can be caused by a number of things, including the food you eat, certain medications, or just the way your anatomy is.
Some risk factors that can increase or contribute to you having GERD are:
● Hiatal hernia
● Connective tissue conditions
Certain medications can also contribute to GERD or make existing heartburn worse or unbearable. Some of these include medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, seasickness, and antidepressants. If you are taking a medication that is worsening your GERD, you should talk to your doctor.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
GERD has the same signs and symptoms of heartburn. GERD is basically the same thing as heartburn, but it is more exacerbated, occurs frequently, and requires medical attention.
Symptoms that are most common with GERD are:
● Burning in your chest that is worse at night and when eating, lying down, and bending
● Heartburn that you are able to get relief from with antacids
● Burning that spreads to the throat
● Feeling like you have a lump in your throat
● Sour taste in your mouth
Other possible side effects include coughing, sore throat, hiccups, wheezing, a hard time swallowing, and regurgitation.
GERD is easily diagnosed by a physician. Your doctor will ask you about the symptoms you have been having and how often. A diagnosis of GERD is usually determined if you suffer from reflux at least two times a week and/or it is starting to interfere with your everyday life.
Treatment for GERD
There are a lot of options available for treating GERD. The best course of treatment is usually determined by the reason for the GERD, if it is known, how much damage has been done, and which types of treatments have been tried before.
Usually the first attempted treatment is over-the-counter medications. Types of OTC medications available include antacids that help neutralize acid, those that reduce acid production, and those that block acid production in order to heal the esophagus.
If OTC medications are ineffective, your doctor will likely prescribe a medication. There are various types of prescription meds that are used for GERD. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe more than one medication so they can work together for better results. Types of prescription medicines for GERD are H-2 receptor blockers, meds that work to build strength in the spincter, and proton pump inhibitors.
Only when medications are not effective is surgery considered. These surgeries are invasive, with each having its own difficulty and recovery time. The type of surgery performed will depend on the patient and the way in which their GERD is caused and affects them.
Home remedies can also be attempted if you know what causes or contributes to your GERD. Quitting smoking, eating smaller meals, losing weight, and avoiding food and beverages that trigger heartburn are great ways to help prevent reflux on your own.
When GERD is not Treated
If GERD is left untreated there could be serious complications. After a period of time the acid reflux would begin to inflame the esophagus, eventually eroding it. If the esophagus is eroded, there could be a lot of potential problems.
When GERD isn’t treated, there is a frequent flow of reflux into the esophagus. When the esophagus becomes eroded, this could lead to open sores and ulcers that could bleed and cause problems eating and breathing.
By constant damage by the reflux, the esophagus could start to build up an excess of scar tissue. This would cause the esophagus to narrow and could lead to choking and difficulty breathing.
Surgical intervention may be necessary if there is enough damage done to the esophagus.
GERD can be annoying to deal with and go through, but majority of the time it can be completely treated. When it is caught early enough and treatment is sought, there are usually zero long term effects or damage done.