Reflux & GERD
What are Acid Reflux, Heartburn and GERD?
Esophageal reflux, also known as acid reflux, heartburn, and Gastro-Esophageal-Reflux Disease (GERD) – is a common condition effecting approximately 30 percent of the adult population. Reflux GERD is a serious condition where contents that belong in the stomach reflux up into the esophagus, causing a variety of troublesome symptoms including heartburn, chest pain and acid regurgitation. This reflux occurs due to a weakness in the barrier function of the muscle between the stomach and esophagus and is treatable.
Esophageal reflux and GERD occurs as a result of the disturbance of the normal anatomy and physiology at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Symptoms of esophageal reflux include GERD:
Contributing factors include – advancing age, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, coffee, caffeine and chocolate consumption, chronic consumption of large meals especially prior to bedtime, and a family history of heartburn or reflux.
Chronic esophageal reflux can lead to damage of the esophageal lining – creating ulcerations, bleeding, narrowing (stricture), swallowing problems, and Barrett’s esophagus, and can ultimately develop into esophageal cancer.
Initial efforts to treat esophageal reflux focus on stopping the movement of stomach contents up into the esophagus, reducing the stomach acid secretion, and improving the emptying of the esophagus and stomach.
After completing a medical history and physical examination, along with a review of available data, nearly all patients’ symptoms are treated successfully with lifestyle changes and medications. For those patients who fail initial treatment or require continued medical therapy, further evaluation is necessary to better understand the degree of reflux and to select the best therapy. The following studies are often performed:
Barium swallow study, to assess the anatomy and function of the esophagus
Endoscopy or esophagogastroduodenoscopy, to visualize the lining of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum
Esophageal manometry, to evaluate the function of the esophageal muscle
pH study, a measure of the degree of acid moving up to the esophagus