Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disease where the mucosal lining of the esophagus is irritated and damaged due to back flow of acid from the stomach. This condition may be caused due to improper functioning of the esophageal sphincter. Improper expulsion of gastric fluids may be another causative factor. A disease known as hiatal hernia may also result in GERD.
GERD is a common disease which affects people from all walks of life. However, it is more common in middle-aged people. Reflux disease may be temporary or permanent depending on causative factors. GERD presents with a number of characteristic symptoms. Common symptoms include the following:
Heartburn: Heartburn refers to burning sensation in the chest and stomach regions. It may be caused due to the corrosive action of the gastric acid on the walls of the esophagus. The pain usually starts high in the abdomen and radiates to the neck region. In some cases, the sensation may be very sharp and mimic angina or heart pain.
Patients generally experience heartburn after taking meals. This is because acid reflux occurs more often after meals when the food fills the stomach. Heartburn may also be more prominent when the patient is in a sleeping posture. Many people experience heartburn during sleep. If the pain is intense, it may disrupt sleep.
Regurgitation: In some patients, the refluxed acid rises high enough from the stomach to reach the mouth. Generally, gastric acid reaches only up to the middle of the esophagus. However, when the volume of refluxed acid is high, it may reach the mouth. Since the acid has a bad taste, it causes a bad sensation in the mouth. The patient will suddenly find his / her mouth filled with regurgitated gastric fluids. Frequent regurgitation may also cause dental problems because the acid will destroy the enamel of the teeth.
Nausea: Nausea is not a common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease. However, it is more frequent in some patients. If unexplained nausea and vomiting are experienced, gastroesophageal reflux disease may be the cause. It is advisable to consult a doctor to get the underlying cause diagnosed. It is not exactly known why some people experience heartburn while others experience nausea and vomiting.
If any of the above-mentioned symptoms are experienced, it is advisable to consult a doctor and get the under condition diagnosed. GERD, if left undiagnosed and untreated, can lead to other serious complications. It is best to get it diagnosed as soon as the symptoms are experienced and take remedial measures at the earliest.