What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid flows abnormally back into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. Stomach acid can damage the delicate lining and muscles of this tube. It can cause inflammation, narrowing, permanent changes to the cells and, in some cases, cancer of the esophagus.
If you have GERD, you may experience severe or frequent heartburn, regurgitation of stomach contents into the esophagus or other symptoms of acid reflux, at least twice a week. Other symptoms can include:
- Feeling of fluid or food rising in the esophagus
- A sour taste in the mouth
- Feeling of a lump in the throat
- Chest pain not related to cardiac causes
- Difficulty swallowing
- Hoarseness or sore throat
- Chronic cough
- Worsening of asthma
Left untreated, GERD can lead to serious health problems such as Barrett’s esophagus.
How is GERD diagnosed?
If you’re experiencing severe or frequent heartburn – twice a week or more – or if you have been taking antacids for two weeks with little relief, the first step is a visit with your primary care provider. You may be diagnosed with GERD based on your symptoms, and lifestyle changes, medication, further testing, or a visit with a specialist may be recommended.
For symptoms that persist despite daily use of prescription medication, or if further testing is needed, your primary care provider may refer you to see a specialist. Testing might include x-rays, acid probe evaluation, esophageal motility testing, or endoscopy.
The BRAVO™ pH monitoring system is also an option to help diagnose GERD. A temporary, small BRAVO™ capsule is attached to your esophagus through a minimally invasive procedure, with data wirelessly transmitted back to the BRAVO™ pH recorder. The recorder is worn on your belt over the course of 48-96 hours, allowing your provider to read the results and determine next steps in your care.
How is GERD treated?
Lifestyle changes may ease GERD symptoms, such as
- losing weight
- eating smaller meals
- not eating for at least four hours before lying down
- quitting smoking
Prescription medications such as H-2 receptor blockers and proton pump inhibitors often are effective. Surgery or endoscopic treatment may be an option for certain GERD patients.
The best way to determine your treatment options is to make an appointment with us.