By Dr. K. S Somasekhar Rao, Gastroenterology
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disorder of the digestive system that is characterized by a reflux of the stomach acid or stomach content through the food pipe. This action causes irritation to the lining in the food pipe and leads to GERD. The symptoms of this disorder are common and not problematic unless they occur more than twice a week in a chronic manner.
You will experience a burning sensation in the chest (heartburn) that might spread to your throat, and leave a sour taste in your mouth. Other symptoms are dry cough, sore throat, problems in swallowing and pain in the chest. If the chest pain becomes severe, then consult a medical professional immediately.
- This condition occurs due to acid reflux; a condition wherein the stomach acids back up to the esophagus. When you swallow food, the lower esophageal sphincter (muscles present at the bottom of the esophagus) relaxes so that the food passes down to the stomach. Once the food passes, the lower esophageal sphincter closes down.
- In case of GERD, this valve (lower esophageal sphincter) does not work properly, which means that the food instead of passing down, may begin to come up. This action tends to irritate the lining of the esophagus, resulting in problems such as bleeding and heart burn.
- Certain factors such as smoking, excess weight, diabetes, pregnancy and asthma tend to increase risks of GERD.
The treatments for GERD are:
- OTC Medications: Over the counter medications such as antacids, H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors are useful for getting temporary relief from the symptoms of GERD.
- Surgery: Surgery is opted for if the medications fail to have the desired effect. Surgical procedures are used to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter so as to prevent the acid reflux.
In addition to these treatments, there are certain lifestyle remedies that can help reduce the risks of GERD. They include maintaining optimal weight levels, not lying down immediately after eating and keeping your head elevated while sleeping.