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  Gerd

Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is a description for the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus or ‘swallowing tube.’ The stomach acid irritates and often damages the lining of the esophagus. Everyone will experience gastric reflux at some time in their life. The sign or symptom of reflux is a burning sensation behind the breast bone usually after a meal. When the backflow of stomach acid is almost constant the condition Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease is present. When the reflux is sever enough to damage the patient’s esophagus and negatively effect their health it is GERD.

Gerd
Gerd


GERD is a relatively new term. Heartburn has been around for years. GERD is also referred to as reflux or reflux esophagitis. GERD is the most common term because it describes the chronic condition exactly. Many patients and doctors may have not yet heard of GERD and its potential health issues.

In the United States it is reported that about seven million people suffer from GERD (Source: Digestive Diseases in the United States: Epidemiology and Impact, National Digestive Diseases Data Working Group, James E. Everhart, MD, MPH, Editor, US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, NIH Publication No. 94-1447, May 1994)

GERD has no prejudice and affects people from every ethnic group, sex, age and socioeconomic class. The incidence of GERD seems to affect people over the age of 40 most. Over fifty percent of GERD patients are between the ages of 45 and 64. Children may get GERD, even infants.

What are the Symptoms of GERD?
There are four symptoms of GERD. They are heartburn, regurgitation of stomach acid, painful and hard swallowing and chest pain. Heartburn is the symptom experienced most often. Asthma, coughing, wheezing, vocal cord redness, burning and pain with hoarseness also may occur in some individuals with Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease. In some patients, stomach acid is aspirated into the lungs. This causes wheezing and coughing. Acid in the throat can cause a sore throat and if it reaches the mouth can affect teeth enamel.

What Causes GERD?
The stomach and esophagus are connected by sphincter muscle or doorway that stays closed when a person is not eating or drinking. When the door relaxes or opens the acid of the stomach spills into the esophagus. A person with GERD experiences this relaxation several times a day. The esophagus is more delicate then the stomach and cannot withstand the damaging effects of the acids.

A Hiatus hernia may cause GERD. A Hiatus hernia is the dislocation of the stomach through the "hiatus" of the diaphragm and into the chest. It is a common health issue and the frequency increases with age. When GERD is severe enough to eat through the esophagus, the patient usually also has a Hiatus Hernia. Most patients with a Hiatus Hernia do not have GERD.

GERD episodes occur around meals. Eating or drinking stimulates stomach acid production causing more to reflux. In certain patients lying down or taking certain medications – such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may make the reflux worse.

How is GERD treated?
GERD is treated with medications that neutralize stomach acid or prevent it from being produced. GERD can also be treated by antacids, bland diet, small meals at night and elevating the head of the bed by about six inches (not just with pillows.

When GERD becomes severe a doctor may order and endoscopy. This is a test in which a flexible thin tube with a microscope is swallowed by a patient. This allows the physician to directly examine the lining of the esophagus and the point where it meets the stomach. Endoscopy also allows the physician to take biopsies of the affected area. When a GERD patient experiences difficult or painful swallowing an endoscopy is required

What are the complications of GERD?
A very small percentage of GERD patients develop sever complications. The complications include esophageal erosions (breaks in the lining), esophageal ulcers (open sores or lesions) and esophageal stricture (narrowing of the esophagus. Barrett’s esophagus is when the normal lining is replaces with abnormal lining. This condition has been linked to cancer and should be monitored carefully.

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