Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD): Symptoms & Causes
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as GERD, has been doing the rounds since the early 19th century but it wasn’t until the mid-20th century that advancements in medical technology, such as endoscopy and pH monitoring, allowed for a deeper exploration of the disease.
About the Condition
Some of the best hospitals in Chennai state that GERD is a digestive disorder that is caused when the contents of the stomach and the acidic juices flow back from the stomach to the throat resulting in chest pain and burning sensation which ultimately might even cause damage to the tissues. It’s a disease that rattles 20% of the Indian population.
Many Emergency Hospitals have reported cases where the patient has been unable to ascertain heartburn from a heart attack. Since GERD does cause pain in the chest area it is difficult to discern one from the other. However, it is important to know that heartburn is an uncomfortable burning feeling or pain in the chest area that can move up to the neck and throat whilst heart attack causes pain in the arms, neck, and jaw, resulting in shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, dizziness among other symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
Let us delve deeper into understanding the varied symptoms of GERD. The condition manifests itself through a range of symptoms, which may vary in severity from person to person.
The most common signs include:
Regurgitation of stomach acid into the throat (re-tasting previously eaten food)
A sour taste in the mouth
Loss of appetite
Other symptoms to keep an eye out for include:
Inflammation of gums
Laryngitis or hoarseness
Excess release of saliva
A sore throat or the sensation of a lump in the throat
These symptoms can significantly impact one’s quality of life, and this makes it crucial to understand the underlying causes.
Causes of GERD
In a normal scenario, the Lower Esophageal Sphincter (LES), is a valve that allows food to pass into the stomach and closes up to prevent the contents in the stomach from flowing back into the esophagus.
The malfunction or weakening of LES is directly responsible for the occurrence of Gastroesophageal reflux. Some of the factors that contribute to the weakening of the LES and the development of GERD are as below:
Obesity: Excess weight puts pressure on the abdomen, which can push stomach acid back into the esophagus.
Lifestyle: Consuming alcohol, excessive caffeine, smoking, and eating fatty or spicy foods that can trigger or worsen GERD. Eating late into the night or eating a large meal.
Certain Medications: Some medicines such as aspirin, painkillers, sedatives, etc, can relax the LES which in turn promotes acid reflux.
Pregnancy: GERD is said to be reported in almost 80% of pregnancies. Increased hormone levels affect muscles in the digestive system i.e., weakened LES which raises the likelihood of acid reflux.
Hiatal Hernia: A small part of the stomach bulges through a hole in the diaphragm. This condition results in weak supportive tissues and increases abdominal pressure causing acid reflux to occur.
Over the recent decade, there have been multiple medical advancements that help in proper
diagnosis and a number of medications to manage the amount of acid in the stomach, such as
proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers, and over-the-counter antacids. Severe cases of GERD might require other medical interventions or a surgical approach. If any of the above-mentioned symptoms persist, it is best advised to visit your local medical practitioner preferably a gastroenterologist.