Most people with GERD don’t have any symptoms. For the minority of people who do have symptoms, the most common ones are heartburn and acid reflux. Other possible symptoms include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and chronic cough.
What is GERD, and What Are the Symptoms?
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus. If this valve does not close properly, stomach acid can flow back up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.
What Causes GERD?
GERD can be caused by various things, including lifestyle choices, diet, and other health conditions. Some of the most common causes include:
- Smoking: Smoking is a significant risk factor for it. Cigarette smoking relaxes the LES, which can cause stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. In addition, smokers are more likely to develop other health conditions that contribute to GERD, such as obesity and diabetes.
- Excess Alcohol Consumption: Excess alcohol consumption is a common cause of GERD. Alcohol relaxes the LES, allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. In addition, drinking too much can contribute to obesity and other health conditions that worsen gastroesophageal reflux disease. If you have GERD, it’s important to moderate your alcohol intake.
- Obesity: Obesity is a significant risk factor for it. People who are obese are more likely to develop it because their extra weight puts pressure on the stomach and LES. In addition, obesity can contribute to other health conditions that can make it worse. If you are overweight or obese, it’s essential to lose weight through diet and exercise to help reduce your risk of GERD.
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy can also be a cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease. During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone causes the LES to relax, allowing stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. In addition, the extra weight of the baby can put pressure on the stomach and LES. Pregnant women are more likely to develop GERD, and it is essential to seek treatment if you have symptoms.
- Hiatal Hernia: A hiatal hernia is when the stomach bulges up through the diaphragm and into the chest. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. A hiatal hernia can cause gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms like heartburn and acid reflux.
How Is GERD Diagnosed?
If you have symptoms of GERD, your doctor will likely start with a physical examination and a review of your medical history. They may also order tests, such as an upper endoscopy to confirm the diagnosis.
How Is GERD Treated?
Most people with GERD can manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. In some cases, more aggressive treatment may be necessary. Surgery is an option for people who do not respond to other treatments.
Living With GERD
For most people, gastroesophageal reflux disease is a chronic condition that must be managed ongoing. Making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and avoiding trigger foods, can help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms. Some people may need to see a doctor more often or make additional lifestyle changes if severe symptoms. They are taking medications as prescribed can also help control symptoms.
If you have GERD, it’s essential to work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. You can control your symptoms and live a healthy, productive life with the proper treatment.
GERD is a common digestive disorder that affects the lower esophageal sphincter. Most people with GERD don’t have any symptoms, but the most common ones are heartburn and acid reflux. A minority of people do have symptoms. Other possible symptoms include chest pain, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, and chronic cough.
The majority of people with GERD can manage their symptoms with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications, but more aggressive treatment may be necessary in some cases. Surgery is an option for people who do not respond to other treatments. It’s essential to work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you if you have GERD.
New York Gastroenterology Associates (NYGA) is a premier independent gastroenterology practice in New York City. We are recognized for providing the highest quality gastroenterological care. Request an appointment right now to get the help you need! We provide consultation and a wide range of ambulatory tests throughout New York City at our offices.