GERD or Acid reflux: Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is usually referred to as GERD. It is a digestive disorder that affects the ring around the lower esophagus that connects to the stomach. Stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and irritates it. It can lead to indigestion and acid reflux. There are treatments that can help with the disorder and relieve the symptoms of GERD.

GERD Causes

GERD is caused by acid reflux. When the stomach acids come back into the esophagus, the sphincter around the esophagus that closes to keep the stomach acids in the stomach can become weakened or inflamed and fail to do its job. This allows the acids to flow backward where they can burn the throat and cause other issues.

GERD Symptoms

Symptoms of GERD can vary. Some people only experience mild symptoms, and others experience more severe ones. GERD can be chronic or occasional. The symptoms can mimic those of other diseases and health problems, and many people don’t realize that they have GERD until they see a doctor to complain about the symptoms. These symptoms may include:

  • Heartburn that gets worse at night
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation
  • Sore throat
  • A feeling of a lump in the throat
  • Stomach pain

GERD Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose GERD based on the description of the patient’s symptoms and a physical exam. They may use a variety of diagnostic tests to rule out other conditions and diseases and confirm that GERD is the problem. These tests include:

  • Upper Endoscopy: A thin tube with a camera and light is inserted down the throat and esophagus. It allows doctors to see what is going on inside the patient’s body and check to see if the stomach and esophagus are inflamed or irritated.
  • Acid Probe Test: A monitor is placed into the esophagus to monitor acid levels to help the doctor determine if there is chronic acid reflux that is causing the GERD. 
  • X-Rays: Doctors can look at the stomach and esophagus to see if there is any irritation or conditions that could be causing the symptoms other than GERD.

GERD Treatment

There are various treatment options for people who suffer from GERD. They are based on the severity of the condition and the patient’s overall health. These treatment options include:

  • Over-the-Counter Medications: Doctors may first ask patients to try over-the-counter medications to help reduce acid and indigestion.
  • Prescription Medication: If over-the-counter medications aren’t strong enough to help the patient, prescription medications may be provided to slow or reduce acid production.
  • Surgery: Surgery can help tighten the sphincter so it can close properly and prevent the stomach acids from backing up into the esophagus. Another surgical option involves inserting a magnetic ring in place of the sphincter to help keep the esophagus closed.

Common medical treatment options for acid reflux include the following:

  • PPIs, Such as Rabeprazole, Omeprazole, and Esomeprazole
  • H2 Blockers, Such as Ranitidine, Famotidine, and Cimetidine

Typically, PPIs and H2 blockers are for individuals diagnosed with GERD. They’re more powerful than traditional antacids and help limit the production of stomach acid. 

GERD Prognosis

Once a successful treatment option has been found, the prognosis is good. Even when GERD symptoms are controlled, patients may still experience some occasional indigestion and acid reflux. Medications may need to be changed to help keep the symptoms under control.

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