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GERD Specialist in Concord, NC

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus. Acid reflux and heartburn are common conditions many people experience from time to time. However, if symptoms are chronic (two or more times a week), you may be diagnosed with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Common Symptoms of GERD

Signs and symptoms of GERD may include:

  • A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn/acid indigestion)
  • Chest pain*
  • Dry cough, hoarseness, or sore throat
  • Regurgitation of food/liquid (acid reflux)
  • Sour taste in the mouth

*Seek immediate medical attention if you have chest pain, especially with other symptoms like arm pain, as these may be signs of a heart attack.

Common Causes of GERD

GER and GERD happen when your lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus (reflux). Things that may cause this include:

  • Increased abdominal pressure from being overweight, obese, or pregnant
  • Certain medicines, including some blood pressure and depression medications
  • Dry mouth, which can also be a side effect of some medication
  • Smoking, or inhaling secondhand smoke​

Constant acid reflux can wear away the esophageal lining, causing complications such as bleeding or esophageal narrowing.

How To Get Diagnosed

Your Northeast Digestive Health Center doctor may diagnose GERD following a physical exam and reviewing your medical history. Additional tests may be required to confirm or rule out other causes. This may include blood, stool or breath tests. Your doctor may also order an endoscopy to examine your upper digestive system.

Are There Any Risk Factors For GERD

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing GERD; other factors can aggravate your acid reflux associated with GERD. Risk factors for developing GERD include:

  • Obesity
  • Having a hiatal hernia, which is when the top of your stomach bulges up into your diaphragm
  • Pregnancy
  • Having scleroderma or another connective tissue disorder that affects the smooth muscle tissue of the LES
  • Delayed stomach emptying, which is a condition in which food stays in your stomach longer than it should

Risk factors for aggravating acid reflux can include:

  • Eating large meals or eating late at night
  • Smoking
  • Eating “trigger” foods, such as spicy or fried foods
  • Drinking coffee, alcohol, or other certain beverages
  • Taking certain medications, such as aspirin, which may prevent the body from protecting the esophagus

Possible Complications of GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition where stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, leading to symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and difficulty swallowing. While GERD itself is not usually life-threatening, it can lead to complications over time. Some possible complications of GERD include:

  • Esophagitis: The repeated exposure of the esophagus to stomach acid can cause inflammation, leading to a condition known as esophagitis. This inflammation may result in pain, difficulty swallowing, and in severe cases, bleeding.
  • Barrett's Esophagus: Long-term and untreated GERD can cause changes in the lining of the esophagus, known as Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a precancerous condition that may increase the risk of developing esophageal cancer over time.
  • Strictures: Chronic exposure to stomach acid can cause the formation of scar tissue in the esophagus, leading to the narrowing of the esophageal passage. This condition is called a stricture and can result in difficulty swallowing.
  • Respiratory Issues: Stomach acid that reaches the throat and airways can irritate, leading to respiratory problems such as coughing, wheezing, asthma, or recurrent pneumonia.
  • Dental Problems: The acid from the stomach can erode tooth enamel, leading to dental issues such as tooth decay, sensitivity, and an increased risk of cavities.
  • Barrett's Esophagus and Esophageal Cancer: In rare cases, Barrett's esophagus can progress to esophageal adenocarcinoma, a type of cancer. Regular monitoring and treatment are essential to manage the risk of cancer in individuals with Barrett's esophagus.
  • Pulmonary Fibrosis: Severe cases of GERD, especially when it leads to aspiration (inhalation of stomach contents into the lungs), may contribute to the development of pulmonary fibrosis, a condition where lung tissue becomes scarred.
  • Bleeding: Inflammation in the esophagus can cause small blood vessels to bleed. This can lead to the development of iron-deficiency anemia.

Individuals with GERD need to seek medical attention and follow recommended treatments to prevent or manage these complications. Lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, medications, and, in some cases, surgery may be part of the treatment plan. Regular follow-up with a healthcare professional is crucial to monitor symptoms and assess the effectiveness of the chosen interventions. If you experience persistent or worsening symptoms of GERD, consult with your healthcare provider for appropriate evaluation and management.

What is The Treatment for GERD

You may be able to control GERD by avoiding reflux triggers, like:

  • Not consuming food/liquids that cause symptoms, such as spicy foods and alcoholic drinks
  • Not overeating
  • Not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
  • Taking over-the-counter medicines, such as acid reducers

Many people can manage GERD on their own. However, some people may need stronger medications or even surgery. Your gastroenterologist will recommend treatment following the determination of potential underlying causes of your reflux symptoms.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have heartburn – does that mean I have GERD?

If you have occasional and mild symptoms of heartburn, you probably do not have GERD. However, if you have symptoms of heartburn all the time, have large amounts of acid refluxing into your esophagus, or tissue damage, you may have GERD.

Why does GERD occur?

GERD occurs when your lower esophageal sphincter (LES) weakens so much that it does not close tightly, which allows the acid to reflux into your esophagus.

What should I do if I think I have GERD?

Make an appointment with your Concord gastroenterologist, who determine if you have GERD and suggest a course of treatment.

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Contact Info

Northeast Digestive Health Center
1070 Vinehaven Drive NE
Concord, North Carolina 28025
Phone: (704)783-1840
Fax: (704)783-1850
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