Did you know that in the United States alone, more than 20% of people suffer from GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease? Commonly called acid reflux, GERD can be a frustrating condition to deal with in your daily life, and it can make the simple act of eating food no longer pleasurable. There are also different severities of this disease, with some being more on the mild side and others being severe enough to cause other conditions such as laryngitis. 

But what are the symptoms of GERD, and what might cause it in the first place? More than that, are there any real treatments for GERD? Keep reading and learn more about the details of this disease. 

The Symptoms of GERD

Acid reflux is a relatively normal occurrence, and it involves acid and other contents from your stomach moving up into your esophagus. The condition that many people call heartburn is actually a type of acid reflux. This condition gives the sensation of burning around the chest because that is where your esophagus is and where the contents from your stomach are slowly climbing up.

However, normal heartburn usually does not happen more than once or twice a week. On the other hand, if you find that you are suffering from acid reflux more often than that or even every day, you may be suffering from GERD. GERD is different from normal acid reflux because it is more persistent.

And because it is more persistent, it may also cause more problems for your health. When it comes to the symptoms of GERD, they can vary depending on how severe your acid reflux is. Most people experience chest pain and sometimes neck pain due to the caustic substances of the stomach making their way up the esophagus. 

This is one of the GERD risk factors because your stomach acid can actually damage the tissues in your esophagus and throat over time.

Severe GERD

Some people have stomach acid that climbs all the way to the back of their throat. When this happens, the stomach acid passes the vocal cords, which may also become damaged as a result of this disease.

As such, some severe GERD symptoms may include being unable to speak or only being able to speak in a hoarse voice. For some, it may even be painful to speak. In the same vein, people with GERD may find it painful to swallow food or water.

That’s because the muscles for swallowing may become damaged as a result of the stomach acid. 

The Causes of GERD

The problem with GERD is that it does not usually have one definitive cause. One person’s GERD may be caused by something completely different than another person’s GERD. For example, many believe that if you eat too much spicy food you will develop GERD, but this is not always the case. 

While the spices in hot food may trigger heartburn in some people, it is not likely to cause GERD, which is a more persistent form of the condition. After all, many people eat spicy food all the time and don’t have any GERD symptoms. More often than not, the lower esophageal sphincter is a big culprit when it comes to the causes of GERD.

The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is a circle of muscle at the base of your esophagus. It is a partition between your upper esophagus and your stomach. When it is closed, the contents of your stomach should not be able to climb into your esophagus. 

The Details

The problem with GERD is that the LES is not closing as completely as it should. Or it may close at first but then open up again at a later time. Usually, it only should open when swallowing so that food can enter your stomach. 

Besides a dysfunction with the LES, there are other causes of GERD, such as eating too much. When you eat too much at one time, your stomach will be overfilled and the contents will want to go somewhere to spread out. As such, the contents end up climbing up the esophagus. Lying down after eating may also be a cause of GERD. 

When you lay down after eating, the contents of your stomach will not want to stay in your stomach. Instead, they will swish around and try to climb up your esophagus. 

Treatment for GERD

If you think you might be suffering from GERD, you should talk to your doctor as soon as possible. That way, you and your doctor will be able to come up with some treatment options. Treating GERD sooner than later is important because when left untreated, your stomach acid can wreak havoc on various tissues in your body. 

Your doctor will likely start by recommending that you make some lifestyle changes. For example, you should avoid foods that might irritate your stomach such as spicy foods, soft drinks, sugar, and alcohol. Losing weight is also important.

That way, your stomach will have a chance to calm down, and your symptoms of GERD may start to lessen. 

If lifestyle changes don’t work, your doctor may give you some medication. Medication will inhibit your stomach’s ability to produce stomach acid. If medication still doesn’t work (which is rare), you may require surgery to fix the problem. 

Everything You Need to Know about GERD

The symptoms of GERD can be annoying for those who suffer from the condition, but fortunately, there are ways to fix the problem.

Talking to your doctor, making some lifestyle changes, and maybe taking some medication, GERD should no longer be a problem for you.

To learn more, contact us here.

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Dr. Minhas, M.D.

Board-certified internal medicine (ABIM)