Many people know they have heartburn but a common question in doctors offices today is just what is acid reflux disease? Acid reflux disease or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) has become common in recent years. It is also termed GORD when spelled oesophageal. GERD occurs when gastric fluids flow back into and cause damage to the esophagus as well as the mucous membranes within.
In adults, heartburn is a major symptom of GERD. This is usually felt as a burning sensation behind the breastbone. Other conditions associated with GERD include esophagitis (an inflammation of the esophagus), difficulty swallowing and chronic chest pain. This chest pain can sometimes be misconstrued as heart disease and should not be ignored under any circumstances.
While occasional heartburn is commonplace, it does not necessarily indicate GERD. If you even think that GERD is possible, see your doctor immediately.
Typical symptoms include hoarseness, voice changes, earaches, burning in the chest and nausea. GERD has also been linked to cases of esophageal cancer in older patients.
In addition, the presence of a hiatal hernia raises the risk of developing GERD.
In children, GERD may be very difficult to diagnose. Frequent spitting up, vomiting, coughing and respiratory trouble are good indicators of pediatric GERD. While there are other symptoms, a patient may have one or many of these symptoms. It is estimated that about 35% of all babies are born with reflux disease. Of these children born with reflux disease, most will outgrow it by their first birthday.
The first step in diagnosing acid reflux disease or GERD is taking a full history of the patient’s symptoms. Tests may be done including a barium swallow, EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy) or a 24-hour monitoring of the Ph levels in the esophagus. The EGD is a form of endoscopy and is only performed on patients with advanced or alarm symptoms.
GERD or acid reflux disease is caused by a failure of one or more of the components of the esophageal tube including the anti-reflux barrier (ARB), gastroesophageal valve (GEV) and lower esophageal sphincter (LES). In recent years, more focus has been placed on the GEV as it has been identified as the central point for controlling GERD. The GEV alone is capable of stopping reflux as has been shown in tests on cadavers.
Treatments can be non-invasive, pharmaceutical or even surgical in extreme cases. Many times the physician will suggest a lifestyle change.
Some foods have been linked to the development of GERD.
There are also a few self-treatments including not eating before bed and sleeping on the left side. These have been proven to lessen the effects of GERD in patients with post-bedtime symptoms.
Keeping all of this in mind, GERD is actually not an acid problem but a muscular weakness disease so the net time you are wondering what is acid reflux disease caused from, you can stop blaming the wrong thing. The weakening of the esophageal muscles causes the acid to back up into the esophagus. So if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please see a physician as soon as possible. It could save your life.