HCG's Popular Posts

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What That Heartburn May Really Mean

Recognize the Symptoms of GERD

Symptoms of GERD can interfere with your quality of life. You can ease symptoms and lessen your chances of reflux with medication and lifestyle changes.

Medically reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
You’ve just finished a delicious meal, but instead of feeling satisfied, you’re quite uncomfortable — there’s a burning sensation in your stomach moving up toward your chest and throat, and it may get worse when you lie down. What’s going on?
You may be experiencing gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a condition in which stomach acid backflows into the esophagus, an event also known as acid reflux. This acid irritates the lining of the esophagus, leading to a number of uncomfortable symptoms. If left untreated, GERD can cause serious complications.
GERD Symptoms
The main symptom of GERD is heartburn, a painful, burning sensation that begins in the stomach and spreads upward through your chest and throat. Heartburn usually occurs after a big meal or an activity that encourages stomach acid to move up into your esophagus. Heavy lifting, bending over, or lying down can all trigger acid reflux.
People with GERD may notice particularly intense heartburn symptoms at night. Keep in mind, however, that the amount of pain doesn't necessarily correlate with the degree of underlying damage being done. In some people, GERD can lead to serious, long-term damage to the esophagus despite few symptoms, while others may experience severe heartburn with minimal esophageal irritation.
Besides heartburn, other common GERD symptoms in adults include:
  • Dyspepsia. Also known as indigestion, dyspepsia leads to stomach discomfort or pain. People with dyspepsia may also feel nauseated after meals.
  • Acid regurgitation or reflux. People may note a sour taste due to stomach acid flowing into their mouths. This symptom may be accompanied by uncomfortable belching.
  • Chest pain. Some people with GERD report feeling like food is stuck in their chest adjacent to the breastbone.
  • Throat problems. GERD can cause irritation of the throat and airways, leading to sore throat, hoarse voice, dry cough, or a sensation of a lump in the throat. As a result, people with GERD may feel the need to clear their throat often.
  • Chronic nausea. GERD can sometimes cause nausea that lasts for months. Excessive acid reflux can lead to vomiting as well.
GERD Symptoms in Children
GERD can occur in infants and children, but it may be hard for parents to recognize the symptoms. Most young children don't experience heartburn as a result of GERD reflux, but instead display a set of symptoms very different from those of adults. These symptoms include:
  • Frequent regurgitation, "wet burps," or vomiting, especially after meals
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Failure to thrive or gain weight
  • Refusal to eat food
  • Irritability
Some of these symptoms can occur in infants as a result of other problems besides GERD, including food allergies, respiratory disorders, and even the normal teething process, but GERD should be considered as a potential contributory factor.
The weight and other growth parameters of babies and small children with these symptoms should be monitored closely to prevent complications such as anemia and other nutritional deficiencies.
Managing GERD Symptoms
People with mild GERD symptoms like heartburn may find that over-the-counter (OTC) antacids help offset their symptoms. Other OTC medications like the H2 blockers famotidine (Pepcid) and cimetidine (Tagamet) and proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec) may be useful if antacids don't help.
But if you find yourself popping more and more antacids or other OTC medications, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. Stronger medications available by prescription can be used to alleviate your symptoms. Or your doctor may perform special tests to figure out whether another condition is causing your symptoms.
There are also a number of lifestyle changes you can make to lessen or eliminate GERD symptoms:
  • Avoid foods that irritate the stomach and may promote reflux. These include foods with caffeine, spicy foods, chocolate, peppermint, fried foods, and acidic foods.
  • Don't lie down for about three hours after you eat.
  • Quit smoking and limit or eliminate alcohol intake.
  • Lose weight.
  • Raise the head of your bed about half a foot by placing blocks under the headboard. This elevates your upper body and discourages acid reflux. Keep in mind that extra pillows won't do the trick.
GERD can be painful, but the good news is you don’t have to live with the pain. Talk to your doctor about medications and try these lifestyle changes to lessen — and even prevent — your symptoms.

No comments:

Post a Comment