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GERD

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About

This stands for gastro-esophagal reflux disease (GORD in UK spelling). Basically, this is the term doctors use to refer to chronic acid reflux. Acid reflux occurs when the stomach contents escape through the esophaginal sphincter, up into the esophagus. It can be caused by inflammation from Crohn's disease, excess acid in the stomach, or by a hiatal hernia.

Symptoms

  • Frequent heartburn or indigestion
  • Excessive burping, particularly after eating or drinking
  • A feeling of a lump in your throat
  • Feeling or tasting your stomach contents come back up your throat
If you have any of these symtpoms on a regular basis, please tell your doctor.

Treatment

GERD can be aggravated by certain foods (such as spicy foods). It is worth keeping a food diary to see if there is a pattern between food and symptoms. Eating too quickly can cause symptoms to flare up. GERD can also be aggravated by eating late at night, as the acid content of the stomach will still be high when the sufferer goes to bed. When lying down, gravity no longer works with the sphincter to keep the acid in the stomach. Therefore raising the head of the bed by a few inches (using bricks or similar placed under the bed frame, not by using extra pillows which folds the body and places extra pressure on the stomach).

In addition, there are various over the counter and prescription drug treatments. Some of these work by neutralising excess acid in the stomach, and you take these treatments as needed for relief. Other medications need to be taken on a regular basis, and prevent the excess acid from being formed in the first place. As these medications alter the acid content of the stomach, they may interfere with the absorption of enteric coated or extended release tablets. Finally, there is a class of medications which form a protective layer over the stomach contents, helping to prevent them coming back up the esophagus. Some of these medications can be taken in conjunction with one another, whereas others are contraindicated. As always, consult with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any medication, even one which is available over the counter.

Complications

Untreated GERD can lead to a condition called Barrett's esophagus, where the esophagus becomes scarred from repeated exposure to stomach acid. This carries with it an increased risk of esophagal cancer. Therefore it is important to try and treat GERD, even if the symptoms do not cause much distress.


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