Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

What is Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter regulatory muscle, making it difficult to digest food. This disorder is also known as Reflux Esophagitis. GERD affects people of all ages, from young children to adults. It causes frequent heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, and other discomforts.

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, a burning feeling behind the breastbone that often spreads to the throat. Chronic, persistent GERD can lead to chronic coughing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, chest pain, and damage to the lining of the esophagus, known as esophagitis.

Causes of GERD

The exact cause of GERD is not known. However, it is believed to be related to lifestyle choices, such as eating large meals late at night, eating fatty or spicy foods, and drinking too much alcohol. In addition, being overweight or pregnant can put extra pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter muscle, increasing the risk of GERD.

Treatment of GERD

Treatment of GERD can vary depending on its severity. In mild cases, lifestyle changes such as avoiding foods that trigger the symptoms and eating smaller meals can help. Medication may also be prescribed, including antacids, H2 receptor blockers, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), and prokinetic agents. Surgery to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter is also sometimes recommended.

Risk Factors For GERD

  • Age: GERD is largely a disorder of older adults and aging.
  • Lifestyle factors: Poor dietary choices, stress, and smoking may worsen GERD symptoms.
  • Obesity: Being overweight increases the risk of GERD.
  • Pregnancy: Pressure from the developing baby causes the lower esophageal sphincter to weaken.
  • Gastroscopic abnormalities: GERD symptoms may be caused by a relocated or malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter.
  • Genetics: Some people may have a genetic predisposition to developing GERD.