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Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux or GERD, is a disorder of the digestive system that particularly affects the esophagus and stomach. The lining of the food pipe or esophagus is disrupted by stomach acid, and it moves back into the mouth. This can leave a bitter taste in the mouth and can also cause heartburn, trouble swallowing, or shortness of breath.
GERD can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the frequency of acid reflux. Usually, patients can manage its symptoms but in some cases, a doctor may recommend emergency treatment or surgery. Adult GERD can be life-threatening and may turn into cancer if not treated in time.
Symptoms of GERD
Acid indigestion from GERD may cause the following symptoms.
- Sour or bitter taste in the mouth
- Heartburn and chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Bad breath
- A lump like sensation in the throat
- Difficulty breathing
- tooth decay
- Enamel erosion (the top layer of the tooth)
If a person experiences acid reflux at night, they may have disturbed sleep patterns, laryngitis and a chronic cough. If one has asthma, it may worsen over time.
Risk factors for GERD
When we talk about risk factors, internal as well as external factors play a major role in the occurrence and severity of GERD. These risk factors include
- Hiatal hernia, which involves the upper part of the stomach bulging into the diaphragm.
- Scleroderma, lupus, or other connective tissue diseases
Oftentimes, eating habits and lifestyle choices can increase the risk of developing acid reflux. This may include excessive smoking, excessive stress, eating foods that contain a lot of oil and fats, high consumption of alcohol, high consumption of coffee, certain medications such as aspirin, and eating large meals at dinner time or right before bed.
A special note for infants with GERD
Spit out food and afterward, vomiting can be most commonly observed in infants between the ages of 3 months and 1.5 years. It is important to note their frequency. Often, GERD in infants goes unnoticed. Some of the symptoms that new parents should bear in mind while noticing an infant’s eating habits
- Suffocation or gagging
- Refusing to eat
- Hiccups or wet burps
- Weight loss
- Frequent coughing
- The infant is irritable during or after feeding
- Slow growth
- Difficulty falling asleep
- A medical condition such as tongue tie
If parents notice any of these symptoms, they should consult their pediatrician immediately about immediate care. Online healthcare portals, such as Creditihealth.com, can help parents connect with the right doctor, as well as help with booking doctor appointments, ordering medications, and other home care services.
A gastroenterologist is usually consulted for a diagnosis and treatment plan for acid reflux. The doctor takes a detailed medical history, which also includes taking into account all signs and symptoms. After that, the doctor recommends the following tests
- Swallow barium to examine the esophagus and upper part of the digestive system, through an X-ray
- Endoscopy to check the esophagus and stomach. An endoscope is an instrument with a camera that is inserted through the mouth and into the stomach through the esophagus. It gives a clear picture, and it can also help with biopsies.
- Mobile pH test. In the test, the screen may be cut into the esophagus during an endoscopy or perhaps as a thin catheter, through the nose, into the esophagus.
- Esophageal manometry
Medical management of GERD includes the use of many over-the-counter medications.
- Antacids can help neutralize stomach acid, but they are not a permanent solution. Excessive intake of antacids can cause kidney problems and diarrhea, so it is always recommended that you take them after your doctor prescribes them.
- H-2 blockers help reduce stomach acid production.
- Movement-inducing substances help in emptying the stomach faster but may have side effects such as anxiety, dizziness, and nausea.
If surgery is required, the doctor recommends fundoplication, a surgery that involves stitching the upper part of the stomach around the esophagus. Other surgeries such as LINX placement and TIF device may be performed, depending on the patient’s condition. Endoscopic procedures or minimally invasive procedures are another option to stop or reduce GERD.
Changes to be used to reduce GERD
One can choose different lifestyle and dietary changes before, during or after GERD treatment.
- Reducing and ultimately stopping smoking, alcohol consumption, and reduced consumption of coffee or other acidic drinks can help reduce acid reflux.
- Avoid spicy foods, citrus fruits, mint, garlic, and foods high in fat.
- One can choose to eat slowly, chew food properly, and consume smaller meals for the day.
- Exercising and maintaining a balanced diet are essential to staying fit and free of GERD.
- It has also been observed that avoiding tight clothing and acupuncture have benefited patients with GERD.
GERD or GERD may be seen in children younger than 3 months of age or they may be stimulated in adults in age groups over 40 years old. From the evidence gathered through the various studies, it can be determined that lifestyle and eating habits play a major role in the occurrence of disease. Simply curbing the habits in the first stage of the disorder can help comfort patients early and help them save money on exorbitant hospital bills.
In the event that the disorder is chronic, medical advances have brought temporary and permanent solutions, which can be easily accessed in hospitals specializing in gastroenterology such as Aig Gachibowli HospitalAnd the Asian Institute of GastroenterologyAnd the Paras Hospital GurgaonAnd the Medanta Ranchi Hospital. If a person finds himself or his relative suffering from the above symptoms, he or she should consult a doctor immediately.
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