Who Is at Risk for GERD?
07. 24. 2017
Whether we like it or not, heartburn is an equal-opportunity offender. This digestive symptom affects people of all shapes and sizes, men and women, young and old. Nearly everyone will deal with heartburn at some point in his or her lifetime - but for some, it’s an ongoing issue.
Heartburn that becomes chronic is known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. This digestive condition affects 7 million people in the United States, and it is most commonly seen in people over the age of 40.
GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscular valve at the base of the esophagus, fails to close properly. This allows acid and undigested food to escape from the stomach and reflux into the esophagus. Frequent heartburn is the most common sign of GERD, but other symptoms include hoarseness, dry cough, sore throat, belching and difficulty swallowing (Source: The Mayo Clinic).
Anyone can develop GERD, but there are certain risk factors that increase your odds of developing this condition. These include:
- Being overweight
- Peptic ulcers
- Dry mouth
- Hiatal hernia
- Connective tissue disorders
If you frequently experience GERD symptoms, or if you are at risk for developing GERD, schedule an appointment to see your gastroenterologist. Over time, acid exposure in the esophagus can lead to health complications, including ulcers, narrowing of the esophagus (strictures), Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.
GERD can be managed through a combination of lifestyle changes and medications. Ask your doctor about which therapies will be most effective in controlling your digestive symptoms. Early intervention and consistent treatment is the best way to protect yourself against GERD and other digestive complications.