Heartburn (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the esophagus (the tube connecting your mouth and stomach) This acid reflux can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Acid reflux is a quite common condition. Most people can manage the discomfort with lifestyle changes and over the counter medications. But some people with GERD may need stronger medications or surgery to ease the symptoms.



Symptoms


Common symptoms of GERD include:


· Heartburn. This is burning sensation in your chest usually after eating which may be worse at night.


· Regurgitation of food or sour liquid.


· Sensation of lump in your throat.


· Difficulty swallowing.


· Chest pain.


· Chronic cough.


· Hoarseness



Causes


GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux.


When you swallow, a circular band of muscles around the bottom of your esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. Then the sphincter closes again.

If the sphincter weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus. This irritates the lining of your esophagus, causing it to be inflamed.


Risk Factors


· Hiatal Hernia. This is bulging of the top of the stomach up into the diaphragm.


· Obesity


· Pregnancy


· Smoking


· Eating large meals late at night


· Eating fatty and fried foods


· Coffee and alcohol


Complications


Over time, long standing inflammation in your esophagus can cause:


· Esophageal Ulcer. This is an open sore in the esophagus. Stomach acids wear away tissue in the esophagus, causing an open sore to form. An esophageal ulcer can cause bleeding, pain, and cause difficulty swallowing.


· Esophageal Stricture. This is narrowing of the esophagus. Damage to the lower esophagus from the stomach acid causes scar tissue to form. This narrows the food pathway leading to difficulty swallowing.


· Barrett’s Esophagus. Precancerous changes to the esophagus. Damage from acid can cause changes in the tissue lining the lower esophagus which increases the risk of esophageal cancer.

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