By Gastro MD
Ever finished eating a delicious slice of greasy New York-style pizza and felt a burn in your throat? If you often have a burning sensation in the back of your throat, sometimes feel it when you eat or often experience acid reflux, nausea or indigestion, these may be signs or symptoms of GERD.
If you’ve never heard the word GERD before in your life or you are experiencing some of these symptoms, we recommend you keep on reading.
What is GERD?
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease, and it is a chronic digestive disorder that affects up to 30 percent of people living in North America. Reflux occurs when stomach contents contact the lower esophagus because there is insufficient muscle tone between the esophagus and the stomach (the lower esophageal sphincter). This can happen as food passes too quickly through the intestines or the valve at the end of your stomach does not close properly.
What are GERD Symptoms?
Typical GERD symptoms include burning chest pain that is often worse after eating food or drinking beverages, regurgitation (food coming back up into your mouth), difficulty swallowing sometimes accompanied by a sour taste in your throat and mouth and spasms of the lower esophageal muscles.
Less common GERD symptoms include chest pain that worsens when lying down, wheezing or shortness of breath, hoarseness, nasal regurgitation or mouth-breathing due to throat irritation from refluxed food and a parched mouth.
How is GERD Diagnosed?
To diagnose GERD, your doctor may take a thorough history of your symptoms and medical background to rule out other diseases that could cause similar symptoms, such as esophageal cancer, laryngitis (inflammation of the larynx) or acid reflux disease. They may also perform a physical exam and recommend specific tests to help determine the severity of your GERD.
Your doctor may recommend one or more of the following:
- A 24-hour pH probe
- An endoscopy (A flexible tube with a camera and light at its tip is inserted into your mouth and esophagus to look for lumps, ulcers or tumors)
- Manometry (A test that measures the pressure inside your esophagus and stomach over time to determine if your lower esophageal sphincter works well)
How is GERD Treated?
The first line of treatment for GERD should involve lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding food triggers that cause heartburn (fatty foods, chocolate, caffeine), quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol. Anti-reflux supplements may help.
Your other treatment options will depend on the severity of your GERD. If you have mild symptoms, lifestyle changes alone may be sufficient. For more advanced cases, doctors recommend either PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) or H-receptor antagonists. Medications that reduce the amount of acid in your stomach are known as antacids. For severe symptoms, surgery may be required to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter and prevent reflux symptoms from occurring again.
If you still experience long-term GERD symptoms even after making lifestyle changes and trying over-the-counter medications, your doctor may recommend prescription medication for GERD.
Are you looking for a local gastroenterologist? Contact Gastro MD. We are a cutting-edge clinical gastroenterology practice that sets the standard in digestive health care.