Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid moves backward into the esophagus, causing heartburn symptoms. GERD can be either acute (a one-time event) or chronic (persistent). It’s also referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD can occur when you have a hiatal hernia, in which the upper part of your stomach bulges into your chest. If you have this condition, it may be caused by a decrease in the strength of your lower esophageal sphincter (LES), an area at the bottom of your esophagus that keeps food from moving backward into your stomach and instead allows it to move forward toward your mouth.
If you experience heartburn or acid reflux on a regular basis, you probably have GERD. However, if symptoms are only occasional, you don’t necessarily need treatment for this condition — but see the preceding section for other possible treatments.
Recognizing some symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD can cause a number of symptoms. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Chest pain (also known as chest pressure)
- Hoarseness (an unusual and irritating voice)
- Difficulty swallowing (sometimes referred to as dysphagia ) or belching
Hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, or belching at night while you’re sleeping may indicate that you have a hiatal hernia. If you have this condition, you may need surgery to correct it. See Hiatal hernia for more information about this condition and treatment options.
Treating Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
The following treatment options can help relieve heartburn symptoms and improve your quality of life if they’re caused by GERD:
Antacids are commonly used to treat heartburn symptoms because they neutralize stomach acid and prevent it from moving backward into your esophagus. If you take antacids on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about other possible treatments for your condition.
These medications are used in combination with other medications (such as an antacid) to treat symptoms of GERD. They also help relieve allergic reactions in the esophagus and throat. Over-the-counter antihistamines include Allegra, Claritin, Zyrtec, and others; prescription antihistamines include Allegra-D and Claritin-D.
Aerostigmine is a medicine that stimulates nerves in the esophagus so that they can relax and prevent stomach acid from moving backward into the esophagus (this medicine may be prescribed to people who have a hiatal hernia). This medicine works best if it’s taken just before bedtime.
Nasal steroid sprays
Nasal steroid sprays are used to treat symptoms of GERD in people who don’t respond well to other treatments. Nasal sprays come in two varieties: aqueous (water-based) and propellant. These sprays help reduce the swelling in the tissues that line your esophagus, but they can make you feel temporarily uncomfortable when you first spray them into your nose.