Summary: GERD symptoms can be like acid reflux, but they occur more frequently, irritating and damaging the lining of the esophagus over time.
According to estimations, 60 million people in the U.S. suffer the burning, fiery symptom that is referred to as "heartburn" at least once every month. While many do not imagine them when picturing average heartburn patients, teenagers, children, and babies are among those included in that estimation.
For approximately 20% of people, the symptom of heartburn indicates a more alarming disease known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a disease that can significantly impact the health and wellness of patients who have it. If you or someone you love notices persistent or significant symptoms associated with acid reflux, get in touch with GI Associates & Endoscopy Center to consult a digestive health specialist who provides treatment for GERD in Jackson, MS.
What exactly causes GERD?
Positioned at the lower end of your esophagus (where it meets the stomach) is a muscle referred to as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When you swallow food or liquids, the LES opens to enable the contents to enter the stomach before closing again to block stomach acid from regurgitating backward. When this muscle fails to work properly, the acid may push up into your esophagus, creating a fiery sensation (heartburn) and possibly an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
GERD is a disease that could arise in people who frequently have problems with acid reflux. Over time, repetitive exposure to stomach acid can result in long-term damage to the esophagus. This may lead to discomfort and a higher risk for additional troubles in or around the esophagus.
Though GERD is not generally a product of any particular trigger, there are an array of issues that may induce recurring acid reflux in children and adults, including:
- Consuming spicy or high-acidity foods
- Consuming large meals
- Lying flat after eating
- Smoking (or exposure to secondhand smoke)
Younger individuals (particularly babies) could also be more susceptible to acid reflux given that the muscles in their digestive system are not as developed.
What are common signs and symptoms of GERD?
GERD carries a lot of the same symptoms as acid reflux, but they might occur more frequently (at least twice a week at a moderate-to-severe level). Other signs and symptoms occur over time as a result of ongoing acid reflux. The more common signs and symptoms of GERD in adults involve:
- The sensation of a lump of food stuck in the throat
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
- Swallowing difficulties
- Unpleasant breath
- Dry cough
- Frequent heartburn (burning sensation in the chest)
- Pain in the chest area
- Raw, sore throat, or hoarse voice
In addition to those mentioned above, indications of GERD in children may include:
- Refusing to eat (in infants)
- Trouble gaining weight
- Breathing issues, including coughing and/or wheezing
- Recurring bouts of vomiting or nausea (after infancy)
It is imperative to seek treatment for GERD in kids before it becomes a problem that interferes with their long-term growth and health. In the event you or your child experiences symptoms that might result from persistent acid reflux, request a visit with a GI Associates & Endoscopy Center gastroenterologist as soon as possible to review your options for GERD treatment.
How is GERD generally diagnosed and treated?
Our Jackson, MS gastroenterologist may evaluate your symptoms and examine your esophagus for markers of gastroesophageal reflux disease utilizing an endoscope or a pH probe. If it is determined that you have the disease, your GI provider might advise a number of lifestyle changes, which may include avoiding certain foods known to stimulate acid reflux, losing excess weight, avoiding lying down after a meal, or smoking cessation.
Your gastrointestinal provider might additionally advise taking medications to reduce acid production or strengthen the LES to hinder stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. In some cases, surgery might be required to repair the connection between the esophagus and the stomach. Treatment for GERD in adults or children might vary on an individual basis, making it imperative to visit a digestive health physician to make sure you get the optimal care for your health.
Help for GERD in Children and Adults
Acid reflux signs and symptoms are common, but they can be the beginning of more serious health problems in the absence of treatment. The experienced gastroenterologist at GI Associates & Endoscopy Center proudly provides a range of methods to treat GERD in adults and children. To find out more about the causes of GERD or to receive GERD treatment in Jackson, MS, request a visit at one of our office locations near you.