You hear a lot about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) these days – and for good reason.
GERD affects up to 1 in 5 or more adults in the U.S.; not to mention a growing number of children.
While there’s increased recognition of the acronym “GERD,” there’s still a lot of confusion about the cause and effects of the disease. With that in mind, we thought it would be helpful to explain what GERD is, and the symptoms to watch for.
First: What exactly is GERD?
GERD occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach– your esophagus. The medical term for this “backwash” is “acid reflux,” which can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Reflux becomes a disease when it causes frequent or severe symptoms or damage. Left untreated, it can lead to pain, chronic irritation of the lining leading to cellular changes, chronic cough, and other issues.
While GERD can affect nearly anyone at any age, certain conditions can increase your risk for GERD, including:
- Bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm (i.e., hiatal hernia)
- Delayed stomach emptying
What symptoms should you watch out for?
Chronic heartburn is most commonly associated with GERD. But many people don’t realize there are several other symptoms that shouldn’t be ignored. For example, some people may experience one or a combination of the following:
- Inflammation of the gums
- Hoarseness in the morning
- Bad breath
- Erosion of teeth enamel
If you have nighttime acid reflux associated with GERD, you might experience:
- Chronic coughing
- New or worsening asthma
- Disrupted sleep
Nighttime reflux is often associated with more aggressive symptoms of GERD. You can learn more about sleep and GERD here.
If you experience any of the GERD symptoms above, it’s important to talk with a gastroenterologist sooner rather than later. Often, GERD can be managed by lifestyle changes and medication. Call us at 877-442-7736 or request an appointment online.