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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common and often painful condition occurring in the digestive tract. It is a chronic condition, meaning it will last at least 3 months, but often for several months or even years. GERD occurs when stomach acid and bile goes back into the esophagus, otherwise known as a food pipe. This acid can cause irritation and inflammation of the lining in your esophagus, which causes the side effects of GERD. This often causes things such as heartburn and acid reflux. Everyone has some form of acid indigestion or heartburn occasionally, but when you have it 3 or more times a week, it may be a sign of GERD.

Causes and Risk Factorsof GERD

After eating, food goes into your stomach through your esophagus. If the sphincter muscle doesnt close properly, the food or liquid and stomach acid goes back up the esophagus, which causes GERD, acid reflex and heartburn. Risk factors for GERD include drinking alcohol, having a hiatal hernia, asthma, obesity, pregnancy, scleroderma or smoking cigarettes. You can also worsen the condition and associated heartburn if you take medications like seasickness medicine, beta-blockers, sedatives for anxiety, progestin, drugs for Parkinsons disease, calcium channel blockers or bronchodilators. This can occur in people of any age, though it is more common in adults. Some foods that worsen GERD are citrus fruits, drinks with caffeine, chocolate, fried foods, spicy foods, food with tomato such as salsa and pizza, garlic, onions and mint flavors.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof GERD

People experiencing GERD may show common or uncommon symptoms. The most common signs and symptoms include feeling like food is stuck near your breastbone, being nauseated after you eat food and having heartburn (burning feeling) that is worse at night, goes away after taking antacids and is worse when bending over, lying down or stooping. There are also another collection of symptoms that are possible, but slightly less common. These include regurgitation, wheezing, coughing, not being able to swallow, hiccups, hoarseness in your voice and a sore throat. If you dont experience severe symptoms, you may not need tests performed for your doctor to diagnose GERD. Tests often used to diagnose the condition are an esophageal manometry, barium swallow, esophagogastroduodenoscope (EGD), x-ray of your digestive system, esophageal pH monitoring, or a stool occult blood test.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof GERD

In most cases, GERD isnt a serious condition and only causes mild discomfort. However if you experience any of the above symptoms, you should still make an appointment with your doctor to get diagnosed with the condition and rule out other possible causes for your frequent heartburn and other symptoms. Lifestyle changes are often enough to help treat the heartburn. These home treatments include avoiding foods that trigger acid indigestion such as tomato food products like spaghetti sauce, pizza and salsa, fried foods, fatty foods and citrus fruits as well as taking antacids before bed and after meals and relieving the pain of heartburn with ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin.

You can also take an H2 blocker or proton pump inhibitor to alleviate acid burning. If these medications dont help, you can get a surgical procedure such as a Nissen Fundoplication surgery to create a barrier and stop stomach acid. Surgery isnt common for GERD and is only used in extreme cases when the heartburn isnt helped with antacids or medications and it occurs regardless of the type of food you eat. Doctors may find another medical condition or underlying cause of what youre experiencing, so if you show signs of GERD, you need to get diagnosed. This helps them find the treatment option that will be right for you.