Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also know as GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle at the end of the esophagus doesn't close properly. This causes stomach acid used for digestion to back up, or reflux into the lower esophagus. When stomach acid comes in contact with the lining of the esophagus, it can cause heartburn, among other symptoms. More than 60 million Americans experience heartburn or GERD symptoms at least once a month. To help treat and prevent GERD, take action by following these simple steps.
Don’t Ignore GERD
If GERD persists, despite lifestyle changes and the use of OTC meds, see your doctor who may refer you to a gastroenterologist. Left untreated, GERD can develop into serious health problems, including esophagitis, esophageal bleeding, Barrett's esophagus and an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
A specialist may carry out an esophagoscopy, a screening procedure that involves inserting a thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end of it down the esophagus. This test requires no sedation. In severe cases of GERD, a surgeon can tighten a loose muscle between the stomach and esophagus to inhibit the upward flow of acid.