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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Diagnosis and Symptoms | Treatment | For More Information

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux, occurs when the stomach acid and contents backs up into the esophagus. When stomach acid flows back into the esophagus, it can cause heartburn, regurgitation and chest discomfort.

Lifestyle and dietary choices often contribute to the chance of developing GERD. For example:

  • Smoking can decrease saliva production‒a natural antacid.
  • Acid reflux often occurs after eating a big meal.
  • Obesity often goes hand in hand with poor eating habits, and excess weight puts pressure on the abdominal area causing more reflux.
  • Pregnant women also are more susceptible to acid reflux throughout their pregnancy due to hormonal changes and the additional weight of carrying a fetus.
  • Presence of a hiatal hernia may also be associated with acid reflux.

Normally diet and lifestyle changes with over-the-counter antacids can help alleviate occasional and mild heartburn. When acid reflux occurs frequently or starts to interfere with your daily activities you may need more potent therapy. GERD can cause inflammation, scarring and subsequent narrowing and blockage of your esophagus. GERD can also lead to more serious disorders such as Barrett’s esophagus and even esophageal cancer.

Diagnosis and Symptoms of GERD

Symptoms of GERD may be exacerbated by eating or are often worse at night when lying down. Typical symptoms of GERD include:

  • heartburn
  • regurgitation
  • “wet” burps
  • trouble swallowing
  • chest and/or abdominal pain

Your NorthShore gastroenterologist will inquire about your medical history and dietary habits. In addition to conducting a physical exam, your physician may recommend one or more diagnostic tests to measure the degree of your acid reflux, such as a 24-hour esophageal pH study or BRAVO study.

Difficulty swallowing may be a sign of a more serious condition. As a result of repetitive acid damage to the lining of the esophagus, subsequent scarring can narrow the esophagus producing an esophageal stricture. This specific complaint may prompt your physician to recommend an endoscopy to examine your esophagus.

GERD Treatment

Mild cases of acid reflux with occasional bouts of heartburn can usually be managed with diet and lifestyle changes along with over-the-counter antacids. Lifestyle changes include:

  • weight loss
  • raising the head of your bed six to eight inches
  • avoiding acid inducing foods (i.e., excessive caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, peppermint and fatty foods
  • quitting smoking
  • avoiding late meals
  • avoiding tight fitting clothing

Medications such as H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors may also be prescribed for GERD treatment.

For persistent cases of acid reflux, surgery may be recommended. NorthShore offers state-of-the-art minimally invasive surgical options performed by highly-skilled laparoscopic surgeons to treat these complex cases of acid reflux.

For More Information

For more information on GERD treatment or to make an appointment with one of our gastroenterologists, please call 847.657.1900.