Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly referred to as GERD, is a chronic digestive disease categorized by the entry of stomach acid into the esophageal tract. Your stomach has a special lining that protects it from the powerful stomach acid, but your esophagus doesn’t have the same luxury. If acid repeatedly re-enters the esophageal canal, it can cause a variety of problems, from bleeding to cancer. Today, we take a closer look at the condition and how it is treated.
GERD Causes and Symptoms
To better understand how gastroesophageal disease develops, let’s take a closer look at your digestive tract. When you swallow food or liquid, the food descends down your esophagus. At the base of your esophagus is what’s known as your esophageal sphincter, which is a circular band of muscle that relaxes to allow the contents to flow into your stomach. When no food or liquid is in your esophageal tract, the sphincter stays closed to prevent stomach acid from entering the esophageal canal. GERD sets in when this esophageal valve weakens and relaxes, allowing stomach acid to occasionally come up into the esophagus. Symptoms of the condition include:
- A burning sensation in your throat or chest
- Difficulty swallowing
- A dry, painful cough
- Regurgitation of foods or liquids
- Sour taste in your mouth
- Feeling like you have a lump in your throat
Left untreated, symptoms can worsen and lead to more serious problems, like esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), bleeding, narrowing of the esophageal canal and a condition called Barrett’s esophagus, which is a precursor to esophageal cancer.
Treatment Options For GERD
There are two main treatment options for GERD, and while the majority of people can get the condition under control without an operation, sometimes surgery is the only option. Here is a look at how GERD is treated:
- Medications – Over-the-counter or prescription medications can help provide relief in a number of different ways. Some medications work to reduce acid production, others operate by neutralizing stomach acids, and others offer a coating to add a protective layer around the esophageal valve.
- Surgery – If medications can’t get the condition under control, or the condition has progressed to a severe stage, surgery may be the preferred option. One of the more common operations to treat GERD is called a Nissen fundoplication, in which the surgeon stitches the upper portion of the stomach around the esophagus to stop acid from entering the area. This type of operation can be performed with an open or minimally invasive procedure, and Dr. Koeplin is well-versed in the minimally invasive option. The minimally invasive option reduces the likelihood of complications or infections, and it offers a shorter recovery time, so it is often the preferred method.
So if you or a loved one has been plagued by heartburn or painful swallowing, consider setting up a consultation with a specialist. The condition has a high successful treatment rate, so don’t just cope with the discomfort. Speak with an anti-reflux surgeon today.