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What is GERD?

written by: Audrey Alleyne • edited by: lrohner • updated: 10/17/2010

You are probably familiar with the term acid reflux, but what is GERD? Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is commonly referred to as acid reflux.

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    What is GERD?

    GERD is a disease of the esophagus. The esophagus is a muscular tube that moves food from the back of your mouth to the stomach.If there is a condition such as gas forming in the stomach or a spasm of the esophageal sphincter, your muscle may keep the sphincter open and it is possible for the acid contents of your stomach to back up or reflux into the esophgus and burn its lining.To fully understand what is GERD, you need to recognize the causes and the symptoms.

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    What Causes GERD

    GERD can be caused by several factors including the intake of certain medications, overeating and drinking, obesity or allergies to certain foods.

    Infants and children can also suffer from GERD. An infant might appear to be healthy, but if his gastrointestinal tract is poorly co-coordinated, this could be a main cause of GERD. In other infants the condition might arise from problems with their muscles or nerves, or even their brain.

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    Symptoms of GERD

    The symptoms care usually very painful. Common ones are among infants are:

    • Feeding problems
    • Colic
    • Breathing problems
    • Vomiting

    Adults and older children may

    • vomit frequently
    • suffer from heartburn and gas
    • have abdominal pain
    • have chest pain
    • regurgitate or re-swallow food
    • have a dry cough
    • have trouble swallowing
    • esophageal spasm

    When the irritation in the upper part of the stomach is so extreme as to cause the strong muscle wall of the stomach to spasm, the pain is so great that most people think they are experiencing a heart attack and usually rush to the hospital emergency department. If the acid continues to flow in the stomach, the lining of the esophagus can erode and even ulcerate.

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    What Makes It Worse

    There are certain foods which make acid reflux or GERD worse. Among these are diets too high in sugar and sugar products such as corn syrup and molasses, alcohol, peppermint and spearmint, chocolate, caffeine in coffee and tea, fatty foods, milk, orange juice, spicy foods and tomatoes and tomato products such as tomato juice, salsa and sauces.

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    Treatment for GERD

    Once you suspect you have GERD, it's time for the doctor to step in and diagnose it. This action should not be delayed for too long or the condition could worsen resulting in eventual surgery. To avoid this have the doctor makes diagnosis as early as possible. Children are usually given what is called a Barium swallow. It is a special X-ray test which uses barium to detect whether there are any obstructions or narrow areas in the esophagus, the stomach and small intestine by highlighting them. Another test is a GI endoscopy. For this test an endoscopy which is a thin lighted flexible tube, is used to look directly into the esophagus, stomach and small intestine. The doctor usually takes a small biopsy of the esophagus. Results of this biopsy will determine what further treatment is needed if there is the presence of reflux. While the condition may not be cured apart from having surgery, there is a possibility that medication and a change of diet can provide much needed relief.

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    References

    Hearburn, Gastroesophageal Reflux(GER) and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

    http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gerd/

    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

    (Gerd, Acid Reflux, Heartburn)

    http://www.medicinenet.com/gastroesophageal_reflux_disease_gerd/article.htm

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