The most typical symptoms of GERD are heartburn and regurgitation. Contents of the stomach, including acid, reflux (move back up) into the esophagus, which may result in uncomfortable symptoms as well as damage to the lining of the esophagus. Individuals with these symptoms are straightforward in their diagnosis. Symptoms, however, may be varied, including, but not limited to: chest discomfort (often difficult to discern from cardiac-related pain), asthma, cough, nausea, bad breath and loss of tooth enamel.
Complications of acid reflux can include dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), regurgitation, and an increased risk of esophageal cancer. This is due to progressive damage to the esophagus, resulting in inflammation, ulceration and possible scarring with narrowing. In addition, these symptoms may be indicative of esophageal cancer. All of these symptoms merit seeing a doctor for further care. At that time, the physician may perform an upper endoscopy to evaluate the source of the problem.
In some cases, individuals can alter their diet and take over-the-counter antacids to reduce symptoms. Dietary changes include avoiding acidic foods, fat-laden foods and overeating. Specific foods, such as chocolate, peppermints and tomato products, can exacerbate symptoms. Other lifestyle measures, such as losing weight, reducing or eliminating smoking and alcohol consumption, not eating late at night and elevating the head of the bed, may be helpful as well. Obesity is strongly associated with both GERD and its complications.
Some individuals may be on medications that promote acid reflux, such as calcium channel blockers and nitrates. These medications, however, should not be stopped by the patient without consultation from their doctor.
For individuals who do not have adequate symptom improvement with lifestyle alter
|Contact: Anne Brownsey|
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy