Almost everyone has had heartburn from time to time. It’s fairly uncomfortable, but usually goes away on its own after a while or faster with the help of over the counter acid reducing medication. The burning sensation in your chest can just about drive you crazy while it’s there though. Many people have even been known to rush to the emergency room, fearing they are having a heart attack, while suffering from the sometimes sharp pains of heartburn.
Now, imagine having that burning feeling every single day, maybe even all day, every day. That, my friends, could be GERD reflux disease, not just heartburn. GERD stands for Gastroesphageal Reflux Disease, and it occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, is damaged or weak. The LES is basically the gate that closes the door to the stomach. If it doesn’t relax properly, stomach acid can travel past it and into the esophagus on a regular basis.
Symptoms for GERD vary, and not everyone will experience the disease the same way, but almost all will have trouble with heartburn. Other symptoms could include a persistent dry cough (usually at night), sore throat, hoarseness, laryngitis, feeling like there is a lump in the throat, earaches, bad breath, sudden increases in saliva, and nausea. Also, GERD can irritate the airways and cause asthma symptoms to worsen. Unfortunately, medication used to treat asthma can actually cause GERD to worsen as well. Children can also suffer with the disease and usually experience symptoms like coughing, reoccurring nausea and vomiting, and breathing problems.
Luckily, there are treatments available for GERD. Sometimes a lifestyle change is enough to dramatically reduce the symptoms, but in most cases, medication and a lifestyle change combine to give the best results. Those with severe weakening of the LES may need a fairly simple surgery to correct the problem. The important thing is that you don’t have to just live with it. See a reflux doctor in your area to get started with a treatment plan.