GERD – Causes and Effects

GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is the chronic flow of acidic stomach content up from the stomach and back into the mouth. Symptoms of GERD include heartburn, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, dry cough, sore throat, acid reflux and the feeling of a lump in your throat.[1] A doctor may be able to diagnose a patient based on persistent heartburn or other symptoms. Diagnoses are also based on ambulatory acid probe tests, x-ray, endoscopy or esophageal motility testing. Ambulatory acid probe tests measure how often acid reflux enters your esophagus during a 24 hour period with a tube and a monitoring device on your wrist. An endoscopy is a visual inspection of the esophagus with a flexible camera and light. The doctor may also take a biopsy. An esophageal motility test measures pressure and movement in your esophagus with a catheter placed through your nose and into the esophagus. [2]

 

GERD is caused by the weakening of the band of muscle separating the esophagus and the stomach. This band of muscle is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). There are a number of risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing GERD. They include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), obesity, hiatal hernia, pregnancy, smoking, dry mouth, asthma, diabetes, delayed stomach emptying and scleroderma and other connective tissue disorders. [3]

 

Long term GERD also has a negative effect on teeth health. Constant acid reflux enters the mouth and slowly erodes the enamel surrounding the teeth. [5]

 

Effects of long term GERD include esophagitis (irritation and inflammation of the esophagus), Barrett’s esophagus (change in the esophagus cells), strictures (narrowing of the esophagus due to scarring), and esophageal cancer. [4]

 

Treatments include antacids and other medications to prevent or block the production of stomach acid and to heal the esophagus. Medications can also be given to strengthen the LES. If medications do not work, surgery is an option. Nissen fundoplication reinforces the LES and Linx strengthens the LES.[6]

 

  1. GERD: Symptoms. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/symptoms/con-20025201

 

  1. GERD: Tests and diagnosis. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/tests-diagnosis/con-20025201

 

  1. GERD: Risk Factors. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/risk-factors/con-20025201

 

  1. Long-Term Complications of GERD. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_gastroesophogeal_reflux_disease_GERD/hic_Long-Term_Complications_of_GERD

 

  1. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease and Tooth Erosion. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3238367/

 

  1. GERD: Treatments and Drugs. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/basics/treatment/con-20025201

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