The gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic intestinal disease that occurs when stomach acid or sometimes, bile flows back (reflux) in the gastrointestinal tract (esophagus). Acid washing irritates the esophageal mucosa and causes GERD symptoms.
- Heartburn sometimes spreads to the throat, along with a bitter taste in the mouth
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Dry cough
- Hoarseness or a sore throat
- Regurgitation of liquid foods or acid (acid reflux)
- Sensation of a lump in the throat
- Chocolate, pepper or spices, mint, fats, coffee and alcoholic beverages favor relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter and, therefore, reflux. Tobacco also produces sphincter relaxation.
- The existence of a hiatus hernia favors gastroesophageal reflux, although it is not the only cause.
- All those situations that involve an increase in intra-abdominal pressure (obesity, pregnancy, certain types of physical exercise) also favor reflux.
Conditions that may increase risk include obesity, hiatus hernia, pregnancy, smoking, asthma, etc.
Over time, chronic inflammation in the esophagus can lead to complications, including narrowing of the esophagus, esophageal ulcer, and Barrett’s esophagus.
Your doctor can suggest tests and procedures used for diagnosis.
- An X-ray of your upper digestive system
- esophageal motility test
- Acid monitoring
- Antacids that cool down stomach acid: Antacids, such as Mylanta, Maalox, Tums, Gelusil, and Rolaids, can provide quick relief. However, only inflammation of the esophagus damaged by acid cannot be cured with antacids. Excessive use of some antacids can cause side effects, such as diarrhea or constipation.
- Medications to reduce the production of acid: It is called H-2-receptor blockers; these medications include cimetidine, famotidine, nizatidine or ranitidine. H-2-receptor blockers do not act as fast as antacids, but they provide longer relief. The strongest versions of these medications are available as a prescription.
- Drugs that block the production of acid and heal the esophageal pipe: Proton pump inhibitors avert the acid production and allow time for the damaged tissue of the esophagus to heal. Proton pump inhibitors include lansoprazole and omeprazole.