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Understanding and Managing GERD/Gastric Reflux: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Understanding and Managing GERD/Gastric Reflux: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

We experience gastroesophageal or gastric reflux when stomach acid backs up repeatedly into our mouth or esophagus. Occasional reflux is common and can affect infants, children, and adults. However, people suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are very uncomfortable and can experience damage to the esophagus. Eating large meals is one of the triggers of gastric juice. GERD has many symptoms, including regurgitation, heartburn, and pain with swallowing. This article will dig into the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and possible treatment of GERD.

Symptoms of GERD

The most common signs of GERD are:

1. Heartburn

This burning sensation starts from the chest and radiates to the mouth. However, not all reflux events are symptomatic. Heartburn is linked to a sour taste in your throat or mouth with or without the regurgitation of the refluxate.

2. Non-Cardiac Chest Pain

Although chest pain is uncommon, it happens in cases with chronic GERD. Chest pain can be a sign of different conditions, including heart attack. Therefore, it is imperative to distinguish the underlying cause of the pain to prevent profound implications. With a thorough clinical history, GERD symptoms in non-cardiac chest pain patients may suggest GERD as a potential cause.

3. Regurgitation

This occurs when stomach content backs up into the mouth or throat. The stomach content can be gastric juice mixed with pieces of undigested food. Hence, you might regularly experience sour liquid or food in your mouth. The sphincter (a ring-shaped muscle located between the esophagus and the stomach) prevents regurgitation.

Tasteless fluid containing mucus indicates an esophagus blockage or a narrowing stricture. Acid damage to your esophagus, cancer of the esophagus, or ingestion of caustic substances causes esophagus blockage.
Other signs include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing) or odynophagia (pain in swallowing)
  • Persistent cough or sour throat.
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent laryngitis or hoarseness caused by acid irritating your vocal cords
  • Sense of a lump or fullness in the throat (Globus sensation.
  • Bad breath
  • Bitter or tangy taste in your throat or the back of your mouth

 

When to See a Doctor

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty or pain in swallowing
  • Losing weight too fast or lack of appetite
  • Blood in your vomit or black stools
  • New stomach pain at the age of 60 and above
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Chocking
  • Anemia

 

Symptoms in Children

  • Trouble swallowing
  • Poor growth or weight loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Refusal to eat
  • Wet burps or hiccups
  • Recurring cough or pneumonia
  • Gagging or choking

 

Causes of GERD

The term gastroesophageal refers to the esophagus and the stomach, while reflux means to return or flow back. When the two words are combined (gastroesophageal reflux), it indicates a content return to your mouth or esophagus. In normal situations, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) remains closed except when you’re swallowing food.

The opening allows the swallowed food to enter the stomach from the esophagus. The system closes immediately to prevent acidic stomach juices and undigested food from returning to your esophagus.

Gastroesophageal reflux or gastric reflux occurs in case of weak LES that relaxes or opens when it should not. This opens the stomach, letting out its content into the esophagus.

Common Risk Factors of GERD

Hiatal Hernia: There are many causes of a weak LES, the most common being a hiatal hernia. However, you can suffer from a hiatal hernia and not experience heartburn or reflux symptoms. A hiatal hernia occurs when your stomach’s upper part moves into your chest through the diaphragmatic hiatus (small opening in your diaphragm). The diaphragm separates your chest from the abdomen and supports the lower end of your esophagus. Vomiting, straining, sudden physical exertion, or vigorous coughs can cause increased abdominal pressure, leading to a hiatal hernia.

Lifestyle factors and medications: The foods we eat, like chocolate, fatty foods, caffeine, cigarette smoking, alcohol, and peppermint, are all common triggers of GERD. Certain over-the-counter and prescription medications can also increase your risk.

Pregnancy: Acid reflux is prevalent among pregnant women. This resolves naturally after delivery.

Obesity: Overweight and obese people are also likely to suffer from GERD, primarily due to increased pressure in the belly.

What Kind of Doctor Should I See if I Think I Have GERD?

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above for an extended period, it’s time to visit a specialist. You can see a specialist in internal medicine (internist) or a doctor specializing in intestine and stomach diseases (gastroenterologist). Depending on the severity of your condition, treatment may involve a single procedure or combination of medications, lifestyle changes, or surgery.

Surgical Options Offered for GERD

For those facing persistent GERD symptoms with little relief from conventional treatments, it may be time to consider surgery as a viable solution. In such critical situations, seeking the expertise of General & Bariatric Surgery of South Florida, led by the renowned Dr. Alvaro Garcia, becomes paramount. Embracing surgical options can be transformative, particularly for patients seeking an alternative to long-term medication-based management or dealing with severe complications. When selecting the most suitable surgical approach, entrusting the guidance of Dr. Alvaro Garcia will undoubtedly lead to the best possible outcome. Reach out to General & Bariatric Surgery of South Florida now and take the decisive path towards lasting relief and improved well-being.

1. Fundoplication Surgery

This is the most common surgery treatment as it reinforces and tightens the LES. The doctor wraps your stomach’s upper part around the esophagus’s lower side. You can have laparoscopic surgery or an open one depending on your preference and agreement with your doctor. The doctor uses a long incision to access the esophagus during an open surgery. Laparoscopic surgery uses several tinier incisions and is less invasive, making it more every day.

2. Linx Reflux Management System

This is a laparoscopic surgery that applies a LINX device. LINX is a small magnetic titanium bead. The LINK strengthens the sphincter when wrapped around the lower esophageal sphincter. The magnetization of the beads enables them to move together, keeping the opening between the esophagus and the stomach open. This has a shorter recovery time since it is minimally invasive compared to traditional surgery.

While surgery might be the last option in GERD treatment, it also eliminates the use of long-term medications. However, you should ask your doctor which option will work better for you. Contact General & Bariatric Surgery of South Florida for a session with Dr. Alvaro Garcia for reliable and professional services.

                                                       

Dr. Garcia is a robotic gastric sleeve surgery specialist located in Pembroke Pines in South Florida. Robotic Gastric Sleeve Surgery is performed using the Davinci X-i. Contact our offices today for a consultation.

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