GERD - Health Center
By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 22 September 2015 - 8:08 am IST
GERD – Basic Overview
GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) is a chronic digestive disease which occurs when the stomach acid or the stomach content flows back into the food pipe instead of moving down. The food flows back into the oesophagus and this reflux of the acid causes irritation along the lining of the oesophagus and causes GERD.
The Acid reflux and heartburn are some of the major signs and symptoms of the condition. If these signs or symptoms appear at least twice a week, it can interfere with the normal functioning of the person. This condition can also cause immense damage to the oesophagus.
GERD can be easily managed with the help of lifestyle changes or with the mediations. However, in some of the rarer conditions, stronger medications or surgery too are needed in order to control the symptoms of the condition.
GERD – Causes
GERD is usually caused due to the frequent acid reflux. This reflux is caused due to the backup of the acid or the bile juice into the oesophagus.
When we swallow the food, the lower oesophageal sphincter – which is a circular muscle around the bottom of the oesophagus, relaxes in order to allow the food to flow down into the food pipe. Once the food has been swallowed, the muscle closes back. However, if this muscle relaxes abnormally or weakens, the acid can flow back into the oesophagus leading to heartburn. This can disrupt the normal working of the body.
The backwash of the acid can cause irritation along the lining of the oesophagus. This can cause the oesophagus to become inflamed, leading to a condition known as esophagitis. This inflammation can wear away the lining of the oesophagus which can lead to bleeding, narrowing of the food pipe or even Barrett’s oesophagus, a precancerous condition.
Signs and Symptoms of GERD:
The major signs and symptoms of GERD are as follows:
- Burning sensation in the chest or a heartburn which spreads to the throat
- Pain in the chest
- Difficulty swallowing food (Dysphagia)
- Dry cough
- Soreness of the throat
- Acid Reflux
- Lump in the throat
Tests and Diagnosis of GERD:
The tests and diagnosis of GERD can be done by the following tests:
- Tests to measure Acid Reflux: Tests such as pH probe tests are done in order to measure the acid for a period of 24 hours. The device is used in order to identify and measure the acid which is sent back into the oesophagus. A catheter is sent in via the nose to the oesophagus.
- X Rays of Digestive System: This test is also known as barium swallow or the upper GI series. In this, the patient is made to drink barium solution which coats the inside of the digestive system. The X rays are then passed through and this allows the doctor to see the inside of the oesophagus and the part of the upper intestine.
- Endoscopy: This technique makes use of an endoscope in order to see the inside of the oesophagus. Sometimes, an endoscope is also used to obtain a sample of the tissue for testing.
- Measuring the movement of the oesophagus: Esophageal Motility Test or manometry is used in order to measure the movement or the pressure inside the oesophagus. In this test, the catheter is inserted via the nose into the oesophagus.
Treatment and Drugs for GERD:
The treatment and drugs for GERD are dependent upon the signs and symptoms of the disease. With the use of over the counter medications, acid control can be completed. The following are the most widely used medications:
- Antacids: Antacids such as Maalox, Mylanta and Gelusil are used widely to provide quick relief to the patients. These antacids cannot heal the damage caused to the organs, but can provide relief against acid reflux.
- Medications to reduce acid production: These medications are also known as H-2-Receptor blockers. These provide long relief against acid reflux and can decrease the production of the acid for up to 12 hours.
- Prescription Strength H-2-Receptors: These include medications such as Tagamet, Pepcid, Axid and Zantac.
- Medications to strengthen the oesophageal sphincter: These medications such as Baclofen are used extensively in order to decrease the frequency of the relaxations of the oesophagus. They are used in severe cases of acid reflux. Fatigue and confusion are some of the major side effects of this medication.
- Linx Surgery: A Linx is a device in the shape of a ring and is made of titanium beads. This device is wrapped around the junction of the stomach and the oesophagus. The attraction between the beads keeps the opening between the sphincters closed. This device can be easily implanted with the help of surgery.
If a patient experiences a chest pain, then it is highly recommended to visit the nearest registered medical practitioner.