Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – Symptoms, Causes

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Symptoms of GERD

In adults, the most common symptoms of GERD can be heartburn, regurgitation and dysphagia which is trouble in swallowing. The less common symptoms can be odynophagia which can be explained as pain while swallowing, increased salivation (another name for it is water brash), nausea, chest pain etc. It is possible that GERD can cause injury of the esophagus. These might include,

Esophageal reflux – It is the continuous narrowing of the esophagus which is caused by reflux-induced inflammation.
Esophageal carcinoma – One of the rarest form of of the esophagus. GERD can be considered to be the main reason behind it.
Reflux esophagitis – It can be explained as the necrosis of the esophageal epithelium. It can cause ulcers where the stomach and the esophagus connects.
Barrett’s esophagus –Also known as intestinal metaplasia, it can be explained as the changes which occurs in the epithelial cells from the squamous and into the intestinal columnar epithelium. Barrett’s esophagus is the intestinal metaplasia of the distal esophagus.

GERD also has other typical symptoms but these occur only when there is an esophageal injury. These are :

Erosion of the dental enamel
Laryngitis, along with hoarseness of the voice as well as throat clearing
Dentine hypersensitivity
Sinusitis and damage teeth
Causes of Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Lower esophageal sphincter – This muscle tissue opens and closes the lower end of the esophagus. It helps in maintaining a barrier in the which restricts the contents of the stomach from moving up into the esophagus. This is done with the help of an area of smooth muscles as well as hormones. But, when these muscles weaken and at the same time loses tone, then the LES is not able to close properly after food has entered our stomach. This allows acid to go back up into the esophagus.
Medications – Various medications meant for different other medical conditions can increase the risk of GERD. These include both over-the-counter as well as prescription drug and they might worsen the symptoms if a person is already suffering from GERD. Drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen can cause GERD. Other drugs such as sedatives, , potassium pills, iron pills also cause the same.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy – Hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy can also affect the proper functioning of LES. Thus, pregnant women often go through heartburn during that period.
Hiatal hernias – Hiatal hernias may impair LES functions. Till now, there is not enough evidence that can prove that a hiatal hernia can cause GERD.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease in children

This disease can be difficult to diagnose in children especially infants since they are unable to tell what they are feeling. Thus, parents and caretakers must totally depend on symptoms as indicators. Symptoms might include repeated vomiting, continuous spitting, coughing and other respiratory problems. Other symptoms such as inconsolable crying, pulling off the bottle or breast only to cry again, refusing food, unable to gain adequate weight, belching, burping, bad breath etc. also occurs. Gastroesophageal reflux disease in children may also occur without any of these symptoms and in such a case it becomes difficult to diagnose it even more. It is estimated that 35% of the 4 million babies born in the US is diagnosed with GERD.

How is GERD treated?

Physicians can recommend changes in diet as well as lifestyle in people who are diagnosed. The aim of the treatment in terms of GERD is to decrease the amount of reflux or to reduce damage caused to the lining of the esophagus from the materials that refluxed. Fatty foods, chocolate, peppermint, coffee and alcoholic beverages that tend to weaken LES is recommended. Cigarette smoking also tends to weaken LES. Therefore , smokers, especially heavy smokers are advised to quit smoking at the earliest. While sleeping, the head should be elevated from the bed on a 6-inch blocks. Else, sleeping on a specially designed wedge can reduce heartburn by allowing the gravity to minimize the reflux of the stomach contents into the esophagus. Antacids, as medication also helps in to neutralize the acid in the esophagus as well as the stomach in order to stop heartburn. Over-the-counter antacids can provide temporary or partial relief. When combined with a foaming agent, e.g. alginic acid, can bring relief to some people. Agents such as these is known to provide a foam barrier on top of the stomach which arrests occurrence of acid reflux. But, the continuous dependence of antacids should be avoided since it can result in side effects such as diarrhea and altered calcium metabolism. So, it is best to maintain a healthy diet along with a healthy lifestyle. 


Resource Link: OTC Medications | Human Medications 

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