GERD: symptoms, causes and complications

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There are many people all around the world who are experiencing GERD. This is a long – term condition. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) happens when the stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting the mouth and esophagus (stomach). This acid reflux (backwash) can irritate the lining of the esophagus. There are many people which experience acid reflux from time to time [1]. The GERD is a mild acid reflux which happens at least two times per week or moderate to severe acid reflux which happens at least once per week. Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with over – the – counter medications and lifestyle changes. There are some people who have GERD may need stronger medications or surgery to ease their symptoms. In many cases, people occasionally experience GERD. It is very important to reduce stress, quit smoking and maintain a healthy weight because they can help you to reduce your risk of GERD.

GERD Symptoms

Here are the most common signs and symptoms of GERD [2]

  • Sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Decay
  • Respiratory problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Difficulty or pain when swallowing
  • Bad breath
  • Chest pain
  • You can feel a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which may be worse at night
  • If you have nighttime acid reflux, then you can experience:
  • Disrupted sleep
  • New or worsening asthma
  • Laryngitis
  • Chronic cough

It is known that the heartburn is the main symptoms of GERD. This is the discomfort which is felt behind the breastbone as a burning sensation. The heartburn tends to get worse when the person bends over or lies down and after eating food.

GERD

GERD Causes

The frequent acid reflux is a cause for the GERD. When you ingest, then the circular ring of muscle around the bottom of esophagus (known as lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow the food and liquid to flow into your stomach and then your sphincter closes again. If your sphincter weakens or relax abnormally, then the stomach acid flow back into the esophagus. This constant backwash of the acid is irritating the lining of the esophagus which is causing it to become inflamed.

GERD Risk factors

Here are some conditions which can increase your risk of getting GERD:

  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma
  • Pregnancy because there is increased pressure on the abdomen in the pregnant woman [3]
  • Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm (hiatal hernia)
  • Obesity which is due to the increased pressure on the abdomen [4]
  • Here are some factors which can aggravate the acid reflux:
  • Taking certain medications, such asthma medications, antidepressants, sedatives, antihistamines and calcium channel blockers
  • Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol or coffee [5]
  • Eating certain foods (triggers), such as fatty or fried foods
  • Eating large meals or eating late at night
  • Smoking and being exposed to second – hand smoke [5]

Complications

There are some cases when the chronic inflammation in the esophagus can cause:

Precancerous changes to the esophagus (Barret’s esophagus) The damage which is caused from the acid can cause changes in the tissue lining the lower esophagus. These changes are increasing your risk of getting esophageal cancer.

Esophagitis This term is used to describe the inflammation of the esophagus.

Respiratory problems It is known fact that it is possible to breathe stomach acid into the lungs which can cause many different problems, such as pneumonia, laryngitis, asthma, hoarseness and chest congestion.

Narrowing of the esophagus (esophageal structure) The damage which is caused to the lower esophagus from the stomach acids is causing formation of scar tissue. This scar tissue is narrowing the food pathway which is leading to problems with the swallowing.

An open sore in the esophagus (esophageal ulcer) The stomach acid can wear away tissue in the esophagus which is causing formation of open sore. The esophageal ulcer can bleed which can cause pain and it can make the swallowing difficult.

References:

[1] Badillo R, Francis D. Diagnosis and treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Journal List; World J Gastrointest Pharmacol Ther; World Journal of Gastrointestinal Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 2014;5(3):105–12.

[2] Marks JW. GERD (Acid reflux, heartburn). Medicine Net. Retrieved from medicinenet.com/gastroesophageal_reflux_disease_gerd/article.htm

[3] Gerson LB. Treatment of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease during pregnancy. Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2012;8(11):763–4.

[4] Chang P, Friedenberg F. Obesity & GERD. Gastroenterology Clinics of North America. 2014;43(1):161–73.

[5] Yamamichi N, Mochizuki S, Asada-Hirayama I, et al. Lifestyle factors affecting gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms: a cross-sectional study of healthy 19864 adults using FSSG scores. BMC Medicine. 2012;10.

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