How to Tell if You Have GERD

The after-effects of eating a little too much can sometimes lead to very uncomfortable symptoms, such as indigestion or heartburn, which may make you think twice the next time you’re tempted to overindulge. 

Though it’s not unusual to experience heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER) or acid reflux, on occasion, if you’re plagued with these symptoms on a weekly basis, you may have a more chronic condition referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

Our gastroenterology experts at GastroMed in Miami, Florida are GERD specialists, and they want you to know the signs and symptoms of the common gastrointestinal disease and what you can do to get relief. 

GER versus GERD

After you chew and swallow your food, the very tight muscle — known as the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) — that separates your stomach from your esophagus relaxes to let food pass into your stomach and then quickly closes. The glands in your stomach then secrete digestive enzymes and acid to help break down the food into a pulpy fluid known as chyme, which then travels to your small intestine for further digestion. 

If your LES is weak or can’t fully close, the acidic contents of your stomach may regurgitate up into your esophagus, creating that tell-tale burning sensation. If you only experience the burning sensation on occasion, then you have GER. However, if your GER symptoms occur at least twice a week, then you have GERD, a more chronic form of GER.

GERD is very common and affects 20% of the U.S. population, according to the National Institutes of Health. If left untreated, your GERD may lead to serious health complications such as esophagitis, respiratory problems, esophageal strictures, or Barrett’s esophagus. GERD may also increase your risk of esophageal cancer. 

Do I have GERD?

Only a doctor can diagnose GERD. However, knowing the common signs and symptoms may help you get the right diagnosis. 

You may have GERD if you’re experiencing:

You may also be suffering from GERD if your dentist remarks that your back molars appear to be wearing away. 

Risk factors for GERD

Though your GERD may develop from an unknown cause, there are factors that may increase your risk of developing the chronic gastrointestinal condition. Risk factors for GERD include:

Though our GERD specialists may be able to diagnose your GERD after reviewing your symptoms and medical history, in some cases an endoscopy procedure is recommended to confirm a diagnosis and evaluate the health of your esophagus.

Our office is also equipped with the ManoScan™ esophageal manometry system, which allows us to quickly evaluate the motor function of your esophagus and sphincters, which also helps confirm or rule out a GERD diagnosis.  

Relief from GERD

In many cases, you may get relief from your GERD by making lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller meals, not eating too close to bedtime, losing weight, and limiting foods that aggravate your reflux (caffeine, peppermint, spicy foods). 

We may also recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications that alleviate your symptoms or reduce acid production in your stomach. Medications that help your stomach empty faster, referred to as prokinetics, may also be recommended.

If your GERD is severe, surgery is sometimes needed to repair damage to your esophagus or stop the acid regurgitation. 

In addition to treatments that provide relief from your symptoms, GERD requires ongoing medical monitoring so your treatment plan can be modified as needed and to screen for GERD-related health complications.

To get relief from your GERD symptoms, contact us at one of our convenient Miami area locations or request an appointment online today. 

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