Acid reflux is a serious disorder that can and must be treated to prevent symptoms and stave off potentially life-threatening consequences. Known medically and commercially as GERD, the acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease, repeated bathing of the soft tissues of the esophagus with corrosive stomach acid can seriously damage them and even cause esophageal cancer, which is often fatal.
Acid reflux is more than just a nuisance. It involves the backward flow of stomach acid into the tissues above it. It results when the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, fails to close tightly enough to prevent the contents of the stomach from moving up instead of down. Sometimes the upper sphincter, between the esophagus and the throat, malfunctions as well.
Contrary to what many believe, heartburn is but one of the many symptoms of GERD, and failure to recognize the others when heartburn is not among them can result in harmful untreated reflux. In addition to indigestion, GERD can cause:
- persistent dry cough
- sore throat
- frequent throat clearing
- burping or hiccups
- difficulty swallowing
- a sensation of a lump in the throat
If, when faced with such an otherwise unexplainable symptom, your doctor fails to think of GERD as a possible reason, you might suggest it yourself. An examination of the esophagus may be the only way to find out if someone without obvious heartburn has acid reflux but doesn’t know it.
One characteristic often associated with acid reflux — being overweight, especially with abdominal obesity — largely explains why the condition has become so common in Western countries. Someone with a body mass index in the overweight range is almost twice as likely to have GERD as a person of normal weight. Losing weight is one of the best ways to find relief without having to rely on medication. Other ways to relieve GERD symptoms include:
- quitting smoking
- limiting alcohol
- avoiding carbonated drinks
- eating five or six small meals a day rather than one or two big ones
- avoiding eating within three hours of bedtime
- Raising the head of the bed by six inches or more
If you suffer from GERD and are looking for treatment, schedule an appointment with Dr. Shawn Tsuda. Among other procedures, Dr. Tsuda specializes in a revolutionary treatment for GERD called LINX. Find out if it’s right for you.