Over 30 million American's suffer from acid reflux each month. Fairfield County Bariatrics & Surgical Specialists, P.C. has joined forces with communities across the nation to improve public awareness regarding diagnosis and treatment, as well as the health risks associated with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
While most of America is preparing for the holidays, health professionals across the nation are using the week surrounding Thanksgiving to promote GERD awareness. It's no surprise that a holiday centered around an abundance of food correlates with a campaign intended to raise awareness about a chronic digestive disease that effects an estimated 30 million Americans. According to a study that followed over 30,000 people for 11 years, symptoms of reflux and heartburn nearly doubled in the last decade.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, commonly shortened to GERD, occurs when stomach acid or bile washes back into the esophagus, or in some cases, serious complications. During GERD Awareness Week, individuals are encouraged to learn the symptoms and cause of GERD, understand the associated health risks, and what treatment options are available to them.
What are the Causes and Symptoms of GERD?
GERD can affect people at any age, however the risk for developing GERD increases after the age of 40. GERD is caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that does not adequately prevent stomach acid from escaping the stomach and flowing back into the esophagus. Additionally, GERD can be related to a hiatal hernia, which can allow stomach acid or undigested food to wash back into the esophagus after a meal.
GERD should only be diagnosed by a doctor and may require further testing to be confirmed, however, the following symptoms may be indicators to visit your physician:
• You experience heartburn twice or more each week
• Your heartburn affects your sleeping
• Your heartburn persists and becomes more severe
• You've had heartburn regularly for several years
• Daily activities are affected by discomfort from reflux
• You experience difficulty swallowing
• You notice shortness of breath, wheezing and chest pain
• You experience a chronic, non-productive dry cough
Health Risks Associated with GERD
Beyond discomfort in daily activities such as exercising, eating, and sleeping, GERD can cause additional complications. Over time, stomach acid can cause esophagitis, a painful inflammation of the esophagus. Left untreated, esophagitis can result in esophageal bleeding, scarring or ulcers. An additional condition called Barrett's esophagus affects about 1% of GERD patients. Barrett's esophagus occurs when cells in the lower esophagus become damaged and change in color and composition. This incresaes the risk of developing esophageal cancer. Since 1970, the diagnosis of esophageal cancer has increased by 600%, and is the seventh leading cause of death for men. Patients with Barrett's esophagus are encouraged to be screened regularly for cancer since many symptoms aren't manifested until the cancer is advanced.
GERD Treatment Options
Adequately treating GERD requires a long-term commitment to improving lifestyle choices and may require physician recommended treatments to control or reduce painful symptoms. Additionally, a new FDA approved device called LINX® is now available for the treatment of GERD. The device, which resembles a small bracelet, is composed of tiny magnetic titanium beads, During a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, the implant is placed at the base of the esophagus, just above the stomach, and acts as a support for a weak LES to prevent stomach acid from washing into the esophagus. In a 3-year study, 92% of patients reported significant improvement and 94% of patients felt satisfied with their overall condition following surgery.
Patients experiencing GERD do not have to suffer without relief. To learn more about the treatment for GERD and how we can help you cure it, please visit us at www.antireflux.com.