Oh My GERD! Why Your Heartburn Might be More

Think you have nothing in common with President Barack Obama?

Health wise, you might share a very common disorder. In December, the President was examined after suffering from a persistent sore throat that had lasted weeks. He walked out with a diagnosis of acid reflux, or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease).

GERD happens when the barrier that would normally stop reflux of stomach contents back into the esophagus is relaxed at inappropriate times. When this acid reflux happens persistently, it’s characterized as GERD.

Could you have GERD?

Lots of people have heartburn from time to time, but how do you know when your symptoms could indicate something more? According to the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, you should talk to your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • You experience heartburn two or more times per week.
  • Your heartburn gets worse.
  • Your heartburn happens at night and wakes you from sleep.
  • You’ve had heartburn now and then, but for several weeks.
  • You have difficulty or pain when swallowing.
  • Your discomfort or pain interferes with daily activities.

How is GERD treated?

If you are diagnosed with GERD, your doctor might recommend that you make changes to your lifestyle. Losing weight, quitting smoking, drinking less alcohol, and making dietary changes could all be advised. Medication, surgery, and endoscopic treatments are other ways to treat GERD.

It’s just heartburn. Why should I worry?

Untreated, GERD can cause serious health problems. Your esophagus can be damaged, which could make it difficult to swallow. Although it’s rare, for some people, cells in the esophagus change because of their GERD, which could lead to esophageal cancer.

If you’re worried that your persistent heartburn could be GERD or if you’ve experienced any other symptoms, follow President Obama’s example and make an appointment with your doctor today.

Photo credit: Alisha Vargas

 

 

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