How To Live Better with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Did you know that 20% of the U.S. population suffers from weekly heartburn? And for many of these patients, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) may be the underlying cause. But even though it has a funny name, this medical condition is no joke.
As such, in this article we’ll talk about what GERD is, how you can find out if it’s causing your heartburn, and what you can do to help alleviate some of its symptoms.
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)? What Causes it?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (often referred to as GERD) is recurring heartburn that usually results from a medical condition where a valve in the esophagus (the tube that connects your mouth to your stomach) begins to malfunction. As a result, stomach acid is allowed into the esophagus, which can even make its way into the throat and mouth. When this occurs, the lining of your esophagus and throat becomes irritated, which results in a “burning” feeling.
Over time, this consistent exposure to stomach acid can result in numerous side effects, which we’ll discuss next.
What are Some of the Side Effects Associated with GERD?
If you frequently experience substernal (e.g. localized to your chest) burning or throat, a dry, persistent cough, a sore throat, or frequent food regurgitation, you may be suffering from GERD. If so, it’s important that you find out immediately by scheduling an appointment with Advanced Family Medicine.
If not, frequent, prolonged heartburn can result in esophagitis (an inflamed esophagus), esophageal bleeding, ulcers, and even esophageal cancer.
How Do I Know if I Have Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
If you regularly experience one or more of the above symptoms, the best thing to do is contact Advanced Family Medicine and to schedule an appointment.
During your visit, your physician will ask several questions about any symptoms you’re having, the details surrounding them, and other pertinent information (e.g. medical history, diet, sleep cycle, etc.). If non-medical or prescription solutions (discussed in the next section) don’t help, advanced tests such as an upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, an upper gastrointestinal series, or other esophageal tests may be required in order to get to the root of the matter.
How Can GERD be Managed?
If your doctor ultimately diagnoses you with GERD, the good news is that it can typically be managed by non-medical modifications, as well as by using medications.
Some of the non-medical steps you can take include eating smaller, more frequent meals, and by avoiding food and liquids before laying down. Also, keep in mind that certain foods and drinks can worsen your GERD symptoms, including mint, alcohol, chocolate, spicy, and fatty food.
On the other hand, if non-medical modifications fail to effectively control your GERD, then there are several relatively safe medications you can turn to. Some of the more popular options include Nexium, Prilosec, Zantac, and many others. Be sure to talk with your physician about medication options best suited for your specific needs.
Need to Know More About GERD?
If so, give Advanced Family Medicine a call today at (425) 453-6838 to schedule your appointment. Remember, the longer stomach acid is exposed to your esophagus the more damage that can occur, so there’s no time like the present!