Most of us have complained of experiencing heartburn at one point or another. Maybe you've eaten something that just didn't sit right with you, or identified a certain type of food that causes heartburn to flare up.
GERD, short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic condition that occurs when the muscles between the stomach and esophagus are weakened, or opening abnormally. This allows for acid reflux, or the backward motion of stomach contents, which causes symptoms of heartburn.
Symptoms of GERD
- Heartburn, a burning sensation in the chest
- Regurgitation of food or sour liquid (acid reflux)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Laryngitis or hoarseness of the voice
- Chronic sore throat or dry cough
- Non-cardiac chest pain
Are Acid Reflux and GERD the Same Thing?
It's normal for most people to experience acid reflux and heartburn every once in a while. Patients suffering from GERD often find that these symptoms occur repeatedly and frequently, usually enough that quality of life is affected.
Essentially, GERD is a more severe version of acid reflux. Patients with GERD have chronic episodes of the listed symptoms, which can sometimes be accompanied by vomiting and difficulty swallowing.
In some cases, untreated acid reflux may cause damage to the lining of a patient's esophagus. Several complications may result from this, including unexpected weight loss, esophageal bleeding, and even some forms of cancer.
Treatments for GERD Patients
Heartburn is such a commonly experienced symptom that patients may not realize there are treatment options available for their condition.
If you think your gastrointestinal symptoms could be indicative of GERD, it's important to speak with your doctor about treatment options that could be right for you. While some patients are able to manage symptoms on their own, it's likely that you'll need medical treatment to correct a long-term problem.
TIF (Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication) – Catholic Health's Heartburn Center at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo is the only location in the greater Western New York region where patients can receive TIF, an incisionless procedure performed through the mouth that reconstructs the sphincter valve, so it works correctly.
LINX® Reflux Management System – A small, magnetic device that can be placed around the esophagus of GERD patients. Rather than attempting to reconstruct part of the stomach, as many traditional procedures do, the LINX device functions to reinforce the faulty muscles that allow acid reflux to occur.
Traditional Surgery – There are multiple approaches for minimally invasive procedures that can treat GERD as well as hiatal hernias. These surgeries aim to correct problems with the muscles that connect the esophagus to the stomach, so that normal function can be restored.
Medications for GERD
Certain medications are able to reduce the amount of stomach acid that the body produces, which can be enough to alleviate symptoms in some GERD patients. This is known as acid suppression therapy. After a consultation to determine if you'd be a successful candidate, these medications can be prescribed by your doctor.
Modifications to certain lifestyle factors are proven to help manage symptoms of heartburn and acid reflux. At-home remedies may include avoiding "trigger" foods, use of over-the-counter antacids, and eating smaller portions at one time.