Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, describes a set of physical symptoms commonly grouped in the "heartburn" category. It is believed that GERD is caused by the reflux, or reverse flow, of stomach acid through a dysfunctional sphincter into the esophagus and throat. Reflux symptoms can be mild or debilitating and are often seen in people who are overweight, smoke, drink a lot of alcohol, or consume too many foods with caffeine or citrus. Simple steps will help you manage your health symptoms and possibly prevent them from escalating into a more serious problem.
Symptoms of GERD include abdominal pain, chest pain, trouble sleeping, spontaneous coughing -especially at night or lying down- and a sore throat or hoarseness caused by the reflux of gastric acid through the cords vowels. Your doctor can examine you and order a series of tests to help determine the cause of your symptoms.
It is important to make sure that your symptoms are due to GERD, and not to any other more serious cause such as heart disease. A gastroscopy, also known as an endoscopy, allows your doctor to directly observe the esophagus and stomach to assess the degree of damage caused by acid reflux. This procedure is performed under light sedation. Biopsies can be taken from the lower part of the esophagus to look for premalignant cell changes. The treatment can begin, which will help control the symptoms.
In addition to identifying and addressing risk factors, the doctor can order medications to control reflux. The family of drugs known as proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, appears to reduce the secretion of gastric acid and also helps the sphincter at the lower end of the esophagus function more completely to prevent acid reflux. You should seek help and guidance from experts to determine the exact cause of your complaints and start the treatment that will allow you to live healthier and more comfortably.
You can control your risk factors, trying to lose weight, drink less alcohol, reduce your daily coffee consumption and quit smoking. Consult your doctor for the diagnosis and treatment of your symptoms.
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