GERD is the shortfor gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is a medical conditioncaused by reflux of the acidic content form the stomach to theesophagus. Under normal conditions, food particles and liquid goone-way, and are not allowed to return from the stomach to the mouth(with the exception of vomiting). The esophagus, a tube that(roughly) connects the mouth and the stomach, contains two sphinctermuscles. These are circular muscles placed at the beginning and theend of the esophagus, whose purpose is to seal it off when we re notswallowing anything, and disallow any content from the stomach to goback to where it came from. In some people, the lower sphinctermuscle, which separates the esophagus and the stomach, may be tooweak to keep the esophagus sealed. Acidic content of the stomach canthen flow back in the esophagus. Lining of the esophagus is notacid-proof as is lining of the stomach, and stomach acid from thestomach content can burn it and even damage it.
Typical acidreflux symptom is heartburn. This has nothing to do with the heart,but it feels like it does. Pain from the heartburn begins in thestomach, but extends to the chest and the throat, so that pain ispresent in the region that is very close to the heart. Burningsensation is caused by irritation of the more sensitive upper part ofthe esophagus.
GERD strikesfrom the shadows
GERD attacks arecommon after heavy, spiced, fat and oil-rich meals, or when bendingover, lifting heavy things or just lying down. Such foods promotesecretion of stomach acid and “boiling” of the stomach content,while such actions make it easier for the stomach content to flow inthe esophagus. GERD attacks are more severe and more common at night.Many patients will feel constant GERD related uneasiness all daylong, but the unpleasant feeling will intensify and become moresevere at night. Intensity of the pain is such that gastric refluxcan be mistaken for a heart attack.
Other commonsymptoms of acid reflux include chronic dyspepsia. This condition ischaracterized by nausea after meals, constant feeling of fullness inthe stomach, and irritation and discomfort in the upper abdomen.Dyspepsia might be unrelated to GERD, and a sure way to tell if youhave GERD is regurgitation of acidic content, or a ‘wet burp’.
There are othersymptoms that are related to GERD. These are less common, and includesevere pain in the chest with a feeling of something stuck behind thebreastbone. This is similar to angina pectoris and may be linked toother serious heart problems and not to GERD, so an examination isnecessary in order to establish an exact diagnosis. GERD can causeinflammation of the vocal chords and lead to hoarseness of the voice,dry cough and the feeling of having a lump in the throat. Othersymptoms include constriction of the esophagus which may make theswallowing difficult or even cause food to remain stuck in theesophagus. Cough, asthma and wheezing can also be linked to GERD.