When Acid Reflux Becomes GERD and When to See a GI
05. 22. 2017
You’ve experienced it hundreds of times. You’ve just finished off a satisfying meal, and suddenly, you’re hit with the first telltale signs of acid reflux. That burning sensation starts to ignite behind your breastbone, you feel as though a lump is stuck in your throat, and a sour taste develops in the back of your mouth. For months you’ve told yourself it’s nothing to worry about, but now you’re not so sure. Is this really acid reflux, or is it something more serious?
Acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are two closely related digestive conditions, but they aren’t exactly the same. Acid reflux is the occurrence of stomach acid and undigested food refluxing back into the esophagus and irritating the sensitive esophageal lining. GERD is a more severe form of chronic acid reflux. In patients with GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter – the ring of muscle that closes off the stomach from the esophagus – does not work properly. This allows digestive acid to enter the esophagus and cause damage over time. Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD, but other symptoms may include coughing, wheezing, chest pain, hoarseness, and regurgitation.
A GERD diagnosis can only come from your physician, but there are some common signs of this condition that warrant further investigation. These include:
- GERD symptoms that continue for more than two weeks
- Heartburn that persists after taking over-the-counter medications
- Heartburn episodes that change in frequency or intensity
- Nighttime GERD symptoms that affect your sleep quality
- Acid reflux that interferes with your daily activities or affects your quality of life
- Unexplained weight loss or decreased appetite
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment to see a gastroenterologist. After performing a complete medical exam, your gastroenterologist may recommend that you undergo an upper endoscopy. This screening procedure provides an up-close look at the lining of your esophagus, stomach and duodenum (the first part of your small intestine) to determine the cause of your digestive symptoms. An upper endoscopy can also detect any damage caused by your digestive issues and help your doctor determine the best course of treatment (Source: WebMD).
GERD is a common digestive condition, but it can become serious if left untreated. Don’t waste time in discussing your digestive symptoms with your doctor. The sooner you get to the root of the problem, the sooner you can begin treating it.