GERD or Acid Reflux or Heartburn Overview
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly and stomach contents leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus. When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn. Occasional heartburn is common but does not mean you have GERD. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD, and can eventually lead to more serious health problems.
The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation.
No one knows why people get GERD. A hiatal hernia may contribute to symptoms. Other factors that may contribute to GERD include: alcohol use, being overweight, pregnancy, and smoking. Also, certain foods can be associated with reflux these include: citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeinated drinks, fatty/fried foods, garlic/onions, spicy foods, and tomato-based foods (like spaghetti sauce, chili, and pizza).
If you have heartburn or any of the other symptoms for a while, you should see your doctor. Depending on how severe you GERD is, treatment may involve one or more of the following lifestyle changes and medications or surgery.
Stop smoking and/or drinking alcohol
Lose weight if needed
Eat small meals
Avoid lying down for 3 hours after a meal
Raise the head of you bed 6-8 inches
Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter antacids such as Alka-Seltzer, Maalox, Tums, or Pepto-Bismol. Antacids, however, have side effects. Magnesium salt can lead to diarrhea and aluminum salts can cause constipation. Other medications such as H2 blockers (Tagament or Zantac) are available in prescription strength and over the counter. Proton pump inhibitors include Prilosec, Prevacid, and Nexium all are available with a prescription.
Surgery can be an option when medicine and lifestyle changes do not work. Fundoplication is the standard surgical treatment for GERD.
Sometimes GERD can cause serious complications. Inflammation of the esophagus can cause bleeding or ulcers. Scar tissue can narrow the esophagus and make swallowing difficult.
Source: Cleveland Clinic Health