The world is observing Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease Awareness week from 23rd to 29th of November and we need to know a lot about this disease. In health, awareness is the first step towards prevention and treatment of many illnesses. In our day to day life, we experience symptoms but fail to correlate it with other body conditions and ignore seeking help on time. They catch attention only after becoming severe and then we rush to the doctor. So, here, we are talking about a few of the most common body symptoms like acidity and burning sensation in the chest, which is the major sign of GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.
What is GERD?
GERD is a condition when the acid present inside the stomach flows back in the tube, known as an esophagus, connecting the mouth to the stomach. This backwash gives an acidic or sour sensation and irritates the food pipe. It is a very common experience that usually gets managed with some home remedies or over-the-counter medication. However, in some people, the frequency of GERD is too high which alters their day-to-day living. This requires medical intervention and meeting an experienced gastroenterologist helps a lot.
Symptoms of GERD
GERD is characterized by these common signs and symptoms.
- Heartburn, usually after food. It worsens at night time
- Chest pain
- Difficulty in swallowing
- The backwash of food or sour taste in the mouth
- The sensation of something stuck in the throat
- A sudden cough while sleeping at night
- Disturbed sleep and discomfort
What increases the risk for GERD?
Anyone can get affected with GERD, however, certain physical conditions increase the risk for this disease.
- A hiatal hernia
- Disorders like scleroderma
- Heavy meals, especially late at night
- Eating fatty, fried and spicy food
- Certain medicines like aspirin
Complications associated with GERD
Any unusual body condition that persists for the too long result in health complications in the long term. GERD also leads to inflammation of the esophagus, which if left untreated, can lead to many other complications.
- Narrowing of the Esophagus: The frequent backwash of acid from the stomach leads to the formation of scar tissue in the lower part of the esophagus. This leads to narrowing of the food pipe which further makes the swallowing quite difficult.
- Ulcer: The acids in the esophagus leads to gradual wear and tear of the tissue resulting in the formation of an open scar. These are like wounds which are very painful and can bleed also. The patient can find it difficult to swallow and even normal non-spicy food gives a burning sensation.
- Precancerous Changes: The changes in the tissue of the esophagus with the formation of scar or sore increases the risk of developing cancer.
When to see a Gastroenterologist?
You should consider meeting a gastroenterologist if you experience frequent symptoms and your usual intake of over-the-counter medication has increased. You should not take heartburn medication frequently on your own. Rather meet a doctor who can assist you with other medicines and check the severity of your condition. Long lying GERD can lead to serious consequences, so do not ignore the symptoms.
Warning: Heartburn with chest pain, heaviness and shortness of breath should not be ignored. Also, watch out for any pain radiating to the arms and jaws. These are also the symptoms of a heart attack. So, seek immediate medical care.