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GERD: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments


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What is GERD ?

GERD is an abbreviation for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Reflux refers to the return of acid, food contents, or gas from the stomach into the oesophagus (food pipe).

Is GERD a serious problem?

GERD affects 30–40% of the population with varying severity. If there is reflux for a short time, it is not harmful. Persistent and unchecked acid/alkali reflux can result in erosions/ulcers/strictures (food-pipe narrowing) or cancer of the food-pipe (esophageal cancer).

What are the symptoms of GERD?

Heart-burn, chest pain, chest discomfort, sour taste in mouth, excessive salivation, chronic cough, sore throat, hoarseness of voice are some of the symptoms of GERD. Some patients may not visit a GI specialist and consult a pulmonologist or ENT doctor for excessive salivation, chronic cough, sore throat, or hoarseness of voice, which can delay the diagnosis.

How can I get rid of GERD?

To get rid of GERD, one needs to understand why he/she is having GERD. Firstly, GERD patients need to understand the risk factors for GERD and address them, namely, obesity, smoking, physical inactivity, irregular food habits, and the types of foods that can worsen GERD. Secondly, consult a GI doctor (gastroenterologist) to assess the severity of GERD. Take the medicines for the duration prescribed by the doctor. Finally, lifestyle modification to prevent recurrences of GERD and hence reduce doctor visits.

Is there any condition that can mimic GERD?

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is an allergic condition involving the inner lining of the food pipe which can have symptoms similar to those of GERD. A GI specialist will run blood tests and endoscopy to differentiate between EoE and GERD.

What are the foods that trigger GERD?

  • Fried and spicy foods
  • Foods rich in refined sugars and sweets
  • Oil-rich foods
  • Excess caffeine
  • Tobacco smoking
  • Food rich in acidic content (lime, tamarind, tomatoes)

Reason for not being able to get rid of GERD?

  • Delay in diagnosis
  • Lack of information about GERD
  • Lack of information about lifestyle modifications required for GERD
  • Inadequate treatment (dosage, duration)

Is GERD curable by surgery?

  • Patients with GERD are referred for surgery in certain situations.
  • GERD is not controlled by medications.
  • Patient not willing to take medications for long time
  • Associated hiatus hernia
  • If patient develops Severe esophagitis/ esophageal stricture / Barrett’s mucosa

Dr Santhosh Kumar SC,

MBBS MD DNB is a Gastroenterologist, hepatologist and therapeutic endoscopist practicing in Bangalore.

(The above blog is for educational purposes. Please consult a GI specialist/Gastroenterologist for evaluation and treatment of your condition)

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