Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition caused by the return of stomach acid into the esophagus, the tube that connects the stomach to the mouth. The acid often irritates the esophageal lining, causing some discomfort. GERD is quite common and at least once every month, over 60 million Americans suffer from the condition.
Generally, the discomfort caused by GERD can be eased with dietary changes or alleviated with over-the-counter medications. Sometimes, however, GERD presents with symptoms that need prescription drugs or even surgery.
Here are some signs that you may have GERD:
- Constant heartburn that worsens after meals
- Difficulty swallowing
- Mild chest pain
- A lumpy feeling in the throat
- Regurgitation of a sour liquid or eaten food.
- Severe cough
- Difficulty sleeping
- Exacerbation of asthma symptoms
All GERD symptoms listed above typically get worse at night. The following symptoms also manifest at night.
What Causes GERD?
Usually, when you swallow, the lower esophageal sphincter allows food and liquid to pass into your stomach. Afterward, it closes back up. When the sphincter becomes weakened or abnormally relaxed, acid from the stomach flows back into the esophagus. This constant reflux of stomach acid irritates the wall of the esophagus, causing inflammation and discomfort.
You are at a higher risk of GERD if you are obese, pregnant, have a hiatal hernia, suffer from connective tissue disorders like scleroderma, or don’t empty your bowels regularly. Additionally, the following have been known to aggravate the condition: smoking, eating large meals late at night, eating fatty and fried foods, consuming too much coffee or alcohol, and certain medications (e.g. aspirin).
If GERD symptoms persist after a week, seek immediate medical attention. If your esophagus gets severely inflamed, you are susceptible to esophageal ulcer and cancer of the esophagus.
Residents of the Greater Houston Area can receive primary care for GERD at one of the PCP for Life medical facilities in the area. Visit our website to book online, or call 281-968-4096 to make an appointment.