GERD stands for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease which is a very common disorder of the digestive system that affects between 42 and 64 million people in the United States. GERD is caused by problems with the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle ring that opens to allow food to enter into the stomach where it is digested. The LES normally closes to prevent caustic stomach acids from splashing back up into the esophagus and causing tissue damage. However, in many GERD cases, the LES does not function properly and allows acid reflux to occur which results in heartburn and other symptoms.
Having a Hiatal Hernia May Increase the Risk of GERD
When a person has GERD, the LES may become weak or relax at inappropriate times. The severity of GERD can vary significantly from one person to another depending on the degree of LES dysfunction and other factors. Those who have a hiatal hernia may also have a higher risk of developing GERD. Hiatal hernias occur when the upper part of the stomach moves into the chest through a small diaphragm opening. Vomiting, coughing, physical exertion or straining can lead to a hiatal hernia.
Anyone Can Be Diagnosed with GERD
GERD does not discriminate and affects people of all ages as well as every ethnicity. There are various risk factors that can increase a person’s chance of developing GERD such as smoking and obesity. Studies have found that smoking can relax the LES. Fried foods, spicy foods, peppermint, chocolate, alcoholic beverages, and coffee may trigger acid reflux and GERD symptoms. The most common symptoms include: burning chest pain, sore throat, difficulty swallowing, regurgitation of food or liquid, and an acidic taste. There are a variety of treatments available for GERD. If you have been having symptoms, contact our office at (734)-692-6566 to schedule an appointment.