Acid reflux is a common condition that occurs when stomach acid travels back from the stomach, up into the esophagus. This condition causes you to taste regurgitated food or sour liquid, and experience a burning sensation in your chest and throat — referred to as heartburn.

GERD — Beyond Reflux

Acid reflux is a common digestive condition that can progress into a severe, chronic form of reflux — GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease). While heartburn is the most typical symptom of GERD, other symptoms include:

  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Chest pain, pressure, or burning sensation
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath or asthma
  • Sleep disturbance
  • These symptoms will be worse while lying down

Managing Acid Reflux & GERD

While many people attempt to manage heartburn symptoms at home, chronic symptoms — experiencing mild more than twice a week or severe symptoms more than once a week, sleep disturbances more than once a week caused by reflux, or persistent symptoms despite diet changes — can lead to severe and long-term esophageal damage and can cause cancer.

Acute acid reflux can typically be treated with lifestyle changes—eating different foods, losing excess weight, and eating less during meals. There are also medications to help ease the symptoms including over-the-counter (OTC) and prescribed antacids. However, if the symptoms persist, you should consult with your gastrointestinal doctor.

When It’s Time to See Your Doctor

If your GERD symptoms worsen, you feel nauseous, have a hard time swallowing, or are vomiting—schedule an appointment with your doctor. GERD can be treated with surgery or other procedures.

Causes of GERD

Normally, when you swallow, a band of muscle referred to as a sphincter, relaxes to let food and liquid into the stomach and then closes to keep contents in the stomach. A person who suffers from GERD has a weakened sphincter that allows backwash of stomach contents back into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is caused by the frequent backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing inflammation and discomfort.

Risk Factors For GERD

There are a number of risk factors for developing GERD that include: 

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Connective tissue disorder
  • Alcohol and/or coffee consumption
  • Eating high-fat or fried meals
  • Eating large or late-night meals
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Certain medications, including aspirin

Diagnosing GERD

If you’re experiencing symptoms of frequent acid reflux, your gastro specialist will use a few different diagnostic tests to determine whether or not you have GERD. Some tests that can be used include: 

  • Upper endoscopy
  • Ambulatory acid probe test
  • Esophageal manometry
  • Upper digestive system x-ray

Treating GERD

There are a number of treatments for GERD that can soothe your symptoms and reduce esophageal damage. The right treatment for you will depend on the severity of symptoms, the cause of your GERD, and how well your body reacts to lesser treatments. 

Treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes that include diet change, weight loss, and improved eating habits — reducing night time eating, large meals, and fatty or fried foods. 

OTC medications including antacids and acid production reducers.

Prescription medications that include H-2 receptor blockers, proton pump inhibitors, and esophageal sphincter strengtheners. 

Surgical intervention that may include LINX device placement.

Discuss your treatment options with your gastroenterologist. 

Treating GERD InfographicAt AHG of Greater Washington, we offer GERD diagnosis and treatment options in Washington DC and Vienna, Virginia. To discover relief from your chronic acid reflux, schedule your consultation today!