It’s the most wonderful time of the year….for most this holiday season. However, while many are enjoying the holiday parties and family gatherings filled with delicious foods, drinks and fun, others are left suffering in silence from a digestive disease called GERD.
What is GERD?
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is more common than people think, as it affects 1 in 5 people in the United States. That’s around 60 million Americans, which is a staggering number even when you consider that there are many more presumed to have GERD that aren’t ever diagnosed with the disease. GERD is characterized by the prolonged exposure inside of the esophagus of acidic contents coming back up from the stomach, ultimately resulting in tissue damage and some pretty painful symptoms. The cause of the leak is the weakening of and/or the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter, which is the muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that controls and allows food and drink to enter in the stomach. This weakening allows contents to flow back up, ultimately eating away at the tissue in the esophagus. This leads to severe chest pain (heartburn), throat ulcers, scar tissue accumulation, and other uncomfortable symptoms of GERD.
What are the Symptoms of GERD?
The two most frequent symptoms of GERD are heartburn and acid regurgitation. Heartburn is exactly what the name suggests, as people suffering from heartburn generally feel a burning sensation inside their chest accompanied by a bitter, acidic taste in their mouth. Acid regurgitation is the culprit here, as this acid creeps back up from the stomach and damages the lining of the esophagus, causing pain and a burning sensation. While these are the two most common symptoms, they aren’t the only ones that signal a problem with reflux. Other symptoms of GERD include:
- Chronic cough
- Gagging and vomiting
- Chest pain
- Problems swallowing
- Sore throat and hoarseness
- Bad breath or a bitter acidic taste in the mouth
- Dental erosion
Should I Schedule an Appointment with My Doctor?
Anyone who is experiencing repeated, prolonged symptoms of GERD needs to schedule an appointment and consult a physician. Knowledge is power, and the physicians at our practice will be able to diagnose your condition and set you up with the proper treatment plan. Please note, though, that if you are experiencing severe chest pains of any kind, seek emergency medical help. Heartburn and heart attacks can be difficult to tell apart, and there is never any reason to take a chance or base decisions off of presumptions when it comes to chest pain. With heart attacks, severe chest pains are usually accompanied with shortness of breath and even pain in the jaw or arm. However, symptoms can vary for each individual, and emergency help should be sought when experiencing chest pains to any degree.
Are There Treatments for GERD?
GERD is a very treatable disease as many discover after consulting their doctor. Lifestyle changes like losing weight, ceasing smoking, and limiting alcohol consumption can provide relief for GERD sufferers.
Certain foods and beverages (spicy foods, peppermints, chocolates, caffeinated beverages, etc.) trigger increased acid production as well, so steering clear or minimizing these can often provide the relief GERD sufferers are desiring.
Many GERD patients report extreme discomfort when they eat too much or when they lie down after eating. Reflux can greatly impact one’s sleep, and the acid that leaks back up and into the throat can awaken one instantly with a feeling like they are about to vomit. As such, GERD sufferers are encouraged to stay upright after eating which allows the food to settle in the stomach and begin digestion before sleeping. Increasing the time between dinner and bedtime has proven effective in curbing this symptom of GERD.
In more severe cases of GERD where lifestyle changes don’t control the issue, over the counter and/or prescription medications can be extremely helpful. Common over-the-counter medications one can use include proton pump inhibitors, H2 receptor blockers, and antacids. There are also medications your doctor may prescribe to counteract stomach acid or help the stomach empty faster. In more rare cases where medications and lifestyle changes don’t prove effective, your doctor may recommend further testing where surgical options may become a likely conclusion.
There is no reason to suffer in silence when it comes to GERD! Schedule a visitwith us today so we can help you find the relief from this painful condition that you deserve!