GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a common condition that can affect anyone of any age. The symptoms feel like heartburn, but when you have heartburn symptoms frequently, rather than just occasionally, your doctor might want to test you for GERD with a medical test such as an EGD, or esophagogastroduodenoscopy, that lets the doctor look at your esophagus through a scope. Here's a look at some of the causes of this condition and treatments that might help.
The Causes Of GERD
The bottom of your esophagus has a muscular ring around it that opens when you swallow food and then closes to keep the food and stomach acid from coming back up your esophagus. When the muscular ring doesn't close and block your stomach contents, acid washes back up your esophagus and gives you heartburn.
Some medications can cause the muscular ring to relax and put you at a higher risk of GERD. Anything that puts pressure on your esophagus, such as being overweight, eating too much, or bending over, can also allow acid to escape and give you heartburn.
Conditions like a hernia, too much stomach acid, slow digestion, pregnancy, and some medical problems can also cause the ring to weaken or put too much pressure on your esophagus and lead to GERD.
Home Treatments For Managing Heartburn
Even if you have mild symptoms just a few times a week, it's important to take steps to prevent episodes so you reduce the risk of damage to your esophagus. Your doctor can advise you about ways to take care of yourself at home. Lifestyle changes and home management might be enough to control mild GERD.
Some things you might want to try include eating smaller meals, avoiding late-night meals, stopping smoking, avoiding alcoholic beverages, and avoiding foods and beverages that make your symptoms flare. Your doctor may also advise you to lose weight and place the head of your bed on risers so your upper body is elevated at night.
Medical Treatments For GERD
Your doctor might recommend medication for your heartburn symptoms. Some medications can be bought without a prescription, while your doctor needs to prescribe others. Some are quick-acting and others are long-acting. The drugs work to neutralize acid or limit acid production. Some drugs block acid production so your esophagus has time to heal from the acid irritation.
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor might suggest surgery when medications don't help. Surgery might involve a method of tightening the muscular ring in your esophagus so acid no longer gets through. If you have a hiatal hernia, a hernia repair option might also be recommended since hernias are linked to GERD.
To learn more about GERD, reach out to a local medical health professional.