A Closer Look at Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal is a medical term referring to the stomach as well as the esophagus. Reflux refers to flowing back or returning. With that in mind, GERD refers to the contents of the stomach returning or flowing back into the esophagus. Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter or LES closes and keeps the stomach’s contents inside but there are cases where it opens inappropriately and the contents may shoot back up, causing a burning sensation, coughing, and others. It is actually a very common disease and it is a precursor to other gastroesophageal concerns.
Causes of GERD
One of the causes that lead to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a hiatal hernia. This is a condition where a part of the stomach pushes out of the hiatus opening in the diaphragm, thereby disrupting the LES, causing it to open.
Dietary choices and lifestyle choices may also cause the LES to relax, thereby triggering GERD to occur. Cigarette smoking has been shown to relax the LES and so has obesity and pregnancy.
Heartburn is the most commonly associated symptom with GERD. This is often referenced as a burning sensation beginning right behind or below the breastbone and it may continue up through the throat and neck.
Heartburn may also be accompanied by a strong, pressurized “knot” in the chest that can make it difficult to breathe. This pain is often caused by stomach acids damaging and irritating the walls of the esophagus.
How Common is This Disease?
In the United States alone, more than 60 Million adults go through painful heartburns every month. Roughly 15 Million American adults every day experience heartburns. Pregnant women will also feel heartburns nearly on a daily basis. Some studies are showing it is also common in infants and children.
Treatment Options for GERD
Treating this condition is generally split into two halves: dealing with the damage caused by GERD and then working on repairing the LES so it doesn’t open up as often as it does. Here is a look at three common treatment options:
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