Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease or GERD is a digestive system disorder caused due to the disorder of the gastroesophageal ring, causing a backlog of the gastric enzymes into the esophagus resulting in irritation to the inner lining of the esophagus. The backlog of the gastric juices often in the esophagus causes frequent heartburn and discomfort.
The symptoms associated GERD are the following:
- Foul breath
- Pain in the chest and sometimes in the upper abdomen
- Difficulty in swallowing food
- Respiratory problems
- Regurgitation of food in the mouth sometimes gastric juices.
- A sensation of a lump stuck in the throat.
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Chronic cough
GERD is caused because of the weakness of the gastroesophageal ring causing regurgitation of food from the stomach to the esophagus. The following reasons are known to cause GERD:
- Increase in the abdominal cavity mainly due to obesity or pregnancy.
- Certain medicines like:
- Pain killers
- Medicines used to treat asthma
- Medicines used to treat hypertension.
- Smoking tobacco, even passive smokers are also at higher risk of developing this condition.
- Hiatal hernia also causes GERD as it causes the upper part of the abdomen to move into the chest, thus lowering the pressure of the oesophageal sphincter.
The risk factors that increase the chances to develop GERD are the following:
- Hiatal hernia
- Connective tissue disorder such as scleroderma
- Delay in emptying stomach content
The factors that aggravate acid reflux are the following:
- Smoking tobacco even passive smoking aggravates acid reflux.
- Eating fatty food or oily food.
- Drinking excess of coffee and alcohol.
- Certain medications like aspirin.
- Eating spicy food
- Eating citrus rich food.
- Inflammation of the esophagus or oesophagitis
- Narrowing of the esophagus or oesophageal stricture making swallowing very difficult and painful.
- Barrettes esophagus, where the cells of the inner lining of the esophagus resemble the cells of the intestine. This condition finally leads to cancer.
- Other compilations include asthma, pneumonia, hoarseness, laryngitis, and chest congestion.
- Oesophageal adenocarcinoma
- Otitis media
- Dental abrasion
- Laryngeal cancer
- Chronic bronchitis
- Sleep apnoea
- Pulmonary fibrosis
- Chronic cough
Lifestyle tips to relief symptoms:
- Elevate the head while sleeping
- Take an early dinner. Dinner must be taken three hours before going to bed.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and fatty foods.
- Avoid painkillers, like aspirin.
- Lose weight
- Take small meals
- Stop smoking
- Eat healthy food
- Eat slowly
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Avoid onions, tomatoes, chocolate, and peppermint.
- Exercise regularly
- Eat an or two before exercising.
- Wear loose fitted clothes
- Avoid spicy food
When does heartburn become a medical emergency?
Heartburn becomes a medical emergency if you feel the following symptoms:
- Pain while swallowing
- A feeling of being choked
- Passage of black or tarry stools
- When the mouth and throat hurt while eating.
- Breathing becomes labored
- Hoarseness of voice
- Blood in vomiting either dull red or coffee-ground brown.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Constant fatigue and lightheadedness