It’s that time of year again when there is a tendency to overindulge in a mélange of delicious foods. Although many people may only suffer discomfort from over eating, another group of people suffer from the far more troublesome and chronic disorder of GERD—and it isn’t just over the holidays, nor is it simply from over-eating or poor choice of diet.
GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a chronic disease where stomach contents flow back into the esophagus causing painful or uncomfortable symptoms and possible damage to the esophagus. Symptoms arise after food is eaten and is in the stomach. The acid reflux occurs when the muscle barrier that is between the stomach (the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES) and the esophagus doesn’t work properly, and the acid makes its way up into the esophagus.
Although certain behaviors may increase your risk of developing GERD, there is no known single cause of GERD—there are many. In fact, many cancer patients may experience GERD after treatment with chemotherapy. GERD is also a common side effect of rheumatoid arthritis treatment.
The good news for these patients and for others with this chronic disease is that long-term medication therapy is usually effective. If medication is not effective, surgery is an option. There are also lifestyle changes that can help you manage your symptoms.
If you have any of the following symptoms, be sure to get a check-up with your doctor:
- Your heartburn happens 2 or more times a week
- Your heartburn gets worse
- Your heartburn wakes you from sleep at night
- You’ve had heartburn now and then for several years
- You have difficulty or pain when swallowing
- Your discomfort interferes with daily activities
A proper diagnosis from your doctor not only can get you on the road to recovery, but it may keep you from future complications down the road—if GERD goes on for too long unchecked and not treated, it can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. To learn more about the risk factors of esophageal cancer, go here.
Appropriately, GERD Awareness Week is reserved for the week of Thanksgiving each year when people experience higher than average bouts of heartburn. To find out more about GERD visit the GIConnection, or get involved with a GERD online community.
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