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GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Ali Lankarani, M.D. shares information on Gerd and Heartburn in the interview below:

Dr. Lankarani’s First Coast Living Interview reviews the symptoms of GERD

GERD, Acid Reflux Disease, is a very common disorder that causes heartburn. One in two Americans, at least one a month, have heartburn.
GERD can be very uncomfortable for the patient and long term can cause other health issues for patients.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

If left untreated GERD can cause:

Treatments for GERD are:

If you suffer from heartburn or GERD it’s important to have your symptoms reviewed by an expert at the Borland-Groover Clinic.

Anhtung Chau, MD provides additional details on GERD below.

Learn more about GERD or Acid Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux, also known as acid reflux, occurs when the stomach contents reflux or back up into the esophagus.  As we eat, food travels from the mouth to the stomach through the esophagus.  The esophagus is comprised of tissue and muscle layers expanding and contracting pushing food to the stomach through “wave-like movements.”  Where the esophagus meets the stomach, there is a circular ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES).  Once you swallow, the LES relaxes allowing food to enter the stomach and then contracts preventing the back-up of food and acid back into the esophagus.  Sometimes, the LES is weak or becomes relaxed because the stomach is distended, and stomach acid re-enters the esophagus.  Often times, this is normal, and occurs shortly after meals without symptoms.  However, if nagging symptoms persist or injury to the esophagus is found, Acid Reflux becomes GERD.  Injury to the esophagus arises when acid refluxes frequently, is very acidic, or the esophagus is unable to clear the acid quickly.


Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux or GERD may also include:

Upper GI Endoscopy for GERD

Diagnosis

Acid Reflux is diagnosed based upon symptoms and the response to treatment.  The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, a burning sensation that rises from the stomach or lower chest.  It is estimated that between 20% - 40% of adults experience regular heartburn, and occasionally heartburn is normal.  If heartburn occurs two or more times a week, consult a physician as this may be due to GERD.  People may exhibit symptoms without complications, and are usually given a list of lifestyle changes and medication.  If the physician notices more persistent symptoms despite treatments such as weight loss, vomiting blood, black tarry stool, a family history of stomach cancer, or patients from endemic region for stomach cancer, specific testing may be ordered such as an endoscopy.  An endoscopy examines the esophagus with a small, flexible tube inserted into the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine.  The physician can look at the esophagus using the camera at the end of the tube, and gather a biopsy for further tissue testing. 

Most patients with GERD do not develop serious complications. Those with severe gastroesophageal reflux disease may experience severe complications such as ulcers, stricture, lung and throat problems, Barrett’s esophagus, or esophageal cancer.  Ulcers form as a result of burning from stomach acid.  As ulcers heal, scar tissue develops, resulting in the esophagus narrowing and causing blockage, known as a stricture.  Strictures are responsible for food or pills getting stuck in the esophagus.  Sometimes, acid refluxes into the throat, resulting in inflamed vocal cords, sore throat, or a hoarse voice. Another severe complication is Barrett’s esophagus.  This occurs when normal cells (squamous cells) that line the lower part of the esophagus are replaced by a different cell type (intestinal cells).  Repetitive damage to the inside of the esophagus due to GERD is often the cause of Barrett’s esophagus.


Treatment for Gastroesophageal Reflux
A treatment plan varies on the severity of symptoms.  As mentioned earlier, lifestyle changes such as dietary changes and avoiding lying down after meals can help with acid reflux.  Medications such as antacids (Tums, Maalox, and Mylanta) aid in short-term relief.  For moderate to severe symptoms, a healthcare provider may prescribe proton pump inhibitors (PPI’s).  PPI’s include Prilosec, Nexium, Prevacid, Protonix, Dexilant and Kapidex and are usually take for eight weeks, until symptoms subside.  If symptoms continue, your physician may recommend further testing.

Reflux is a normal process occurring in healthy infants, children and adults.  Most episodes are brief and do not cause bothersome symptoms or complications.  However, patients suffering from GERD experience bothersome symptoms as a result of the reflux.  If you suffer from one or more of these symptoms and would like more information on GERD or gastroesophageal-reflux-disease and other digestive diseases, please contact one of our Board Certified Gastroenterologists. Learn more about the TIF Procedure: An Effective Solution for Chronic Acid Reflux.