Things You Must Know About GERD: A Comprehensive Guide On Acid Reflux Disease

acid reflux diseaseAcid reflux disease is a common gastrointestinal problem diagnosed frequently in all countries around the world. GERD or acid reflux is a condition associated with malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter. These sphincters are usually closed unless food particles are ingested. In case, the sphincters are opened and closed frequently and spontaneously, the gastric juice from stomach regurgitate into esophagus and cause heart-burning, gastric pain, acidity, chest pain, severe abdominal discomfort and so on. This condition is termed as Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).

Causes of Acid Reflux Disease (GERD): an overview

Medical specialists and gastroenterologists anticipate the etiology of the disease in few major groups. Usually the patients demonstrate some common factors associated with their lifestyles, personal habits, diets, medications and some related disorders. The exact causes couldn’t yet be identified, but these factors are closely related in certain cases:

* Lifestyle and personal habits: Obesity, poor sleeping posture, consumption of excessive alcohol or cigarettes are responsible for ulcerations, sloughing of the tissues in the gastrointestinal tract. These factors exaggerate acid reflux and worsen the condition. These don’t contribute to the disease directly, but weaken the lower esophageal sphincter which leads to GERD.

* Dietary patterns and medications: Oily, fried foods containing excessive fat work as triggering factors for many medical conditions in the GI tract. Other food products like Garlic, Onion, Caffeinated drinks, Coco made chocolates, citrus fruits containing acid are also responsible for gastrointestinal malfunctions. Even if you regularly eat just before going to bed, or consume a large amount of food at once, things can worsen and you may develop acid reflux.

* Diseases and certain medical conditions: Obese persons often suffer from metabolic diseases and gastrointestinal problems. Certain therapeutic agents such as Theophylline, Antihistamines, Nitrates, Calcium channel blockers also associate reflux problems as side effects. Pregnant women are also prone to develop gastric problems. In addition, Hiatus Hernia, Diabetes, Metabolic Acidosis are also associated with Gastric reflux disease.

Signs and symptoms of Acid reflux disease: features with diagnostic values

Gastric reflux disease features some primary signs and symptoms that every patient complains about. At the primary stage, GERD is uncomplicated and later the conditions worsen if kept untreated. So the diagnostic features can be grouped into two different phases: uncomplicated and complicated.

#1 Heartburn: This is certainly the most common complaint by the patients. This is also referred to the primary symptom. When acid regurgitates back into the cavity of esophagus, the nerve fibers are directly stimulated resulting into heartburn. The pain often radiates in different areas around the chest and periodically occurs after meals.

#2 Regurgitation: Sometimes, patients complain about regurgitated foods in the mouth cavity. The pungent smell and bad taste of liquid inside the mouth cavity is a characteristic evidence of gastrointestinal reflux disease. Small quantities of digested food products get back to the esophagus and the reflux tendency leads to complicated GERD. Sometimes, the refluxed material contains small grinded food particles and large quantity of liquid as well. There are two sphincter muscles inside esophagus, one placed in the upper part and the other in the lower part. These circular muscles work as valves and facilitate normal gastrointestinal mobility.

#3 Others: Certain other conditions arise in the course of development of the disease. Some patients complaint about severe nausea and vomiting. If anyone is suffering from nausea without a detectable cause, GERD should be ruled out first. Some patients also suffer from other complicated conditions associated with GERD. Ulceration in the esophagus, abnormal strictures, Barrett’s esophagus, cough, asthma, inflammation around the chest, lung and surrounding tissues, esophagitis are some medical conditions that are closely related to acid reflux disease.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Acid Reflux Disease

* Diagnosis: As the symptoms are highly suggestive and significant for clinical diagnosis, experts can easily detect an underlying case of GERD. At an early stage, a primary healthcare provider recommends taking over-the-counter antacids to treat the acidity problem. In case, the symptoms persist for more than four weeks, the internist refers the patient to a gastroenterologist.

A GI specialist usually starts with an upper GI series test protocol for diagnosing the disease precisely. The gastroenterologist usually starts with a series of X-rays of the affected area (i.e. esophagus, upper part of intestinal cavity and stomach). The test follows a special radiological determination method termed as barium swallow method.

Next, he asks for an upper GI endoscopy test (EGD) for exploring the visible changes in the walls of the intestinal tract and later he asks for Esophageal manometry test. The manometry test helps in determining the motor function of the esophageal sphincter muscles. Sometimes a 24-hour study of gastric pH probe can reveal undetermined disease factors among the patients.

* Treatment: Management of GERD also associates different approaches. Treatment of this disease is done in three different phases. One refers to optimizing the lifestyle and preventing the disease actively, next one refers to diagnosis and treatment of the triggering disease and health factors (if present) and the last one refers to active management of Acid reflux disease.

1. Preventive measures: The clinical features demonstrate how lifestyle and dietary factors trigger and worsen the condition. So, the expert physicians recommend correcting these factors first. They counsel the patients about avoiding oily, fatty foods. They also advise the patients to avoid alcohol, smoking and other harmful habits.

2. Treating the diseases that exaggerate or initiate GERD: Diabetes, ulcerations, Hiatus hernia, acidosis, some metabolic disorders should be treated accordingly to reduce the intensity of GERD symptoms. A gastroenterologist primarily focuses on treating these medical problems before he starts treating gastric reflux disease actively.

3. Antacid, the over-the-counter liquid medicine is prescribed as primary treatment intervention. Proton pump inhibitors such esomeprazole, omeprazole, combined therapy of omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate are also prescribed for chemotherapeutic treatment. Histamine antagonists like ranitidine, cimetidine are also popular OTC drugs used for treating GERD. In case, the medications fail and a patient continues to suffer from the gastric problems, surgical methods are considered as the last option. Usually these surgeries are operated for creating new barriers to prevent reflux or for strengthening the circular sphincter muscle in the lower esophagus.

Acid reflux disease is a curable condition with great prognosis. If the disease is diagnosed early, treating the condition is very easy and a patient usually undergoes quick recovery. If kept untreated or the treatment protocol is not followed accurate, things may worsen over time and give rise to deadly medical conditions like gastric ulcer, Barrette’s esophagus, malignant tumor of esophagus and intestine and so on. So if you’re suffering from anything suggestive of GERD, you should consult with your physician immediately.