Acid Reflux Symptoms
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, otherwise known as acid reflux or heartburn, plagues millions of Americans on a daily basis. GERD occurs when the acidic contents from the stomach reflux into the esophagus.
Normally the stomach and esophagus operate in harmony with one another. This happens because a circle of muscles, the lower esophageal sphincter, bridge the gap between the stomach and esophagus to keep stomach contents from coming back into the esophagus. The diaphragm also provides a barrier between the stomach and esophagus. However if this band of muscles has relaxed at the wrong time or is damaged, reflux occurs.
The symptoms experienced by GERD patients arise due to tissue irritation in the esophagus. After a prolonged period of exposure to harsh, acidic stomach contents, the lining inside the esophagus is damaged and inflamed. This condition is called esophagitis. If a patient has the symptoms of acid reflux but no present tissue damage, they have non-erosive GERD.
Some common symptoms associated with GERD:
- Bad Breath
- Chronic irritation or soreness of throat
- Difficulty and/or pain when swallowing
- Dysphagia (feeling of food stuck in the esophagus)
- Erosion of tooth enamel
- Hoarseness in the morning
- Inflamed gums
- Chest pain
Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms experienced by GERD patients. These symptoms may come and go or linger throughout daily activities. They often vary from person to person, with some experiencing mild symptoms with no tissue damage or complications.
If your heartburn occurs more than once a week or wakes you from sleep, it may serve as a warning that a more serious condition is present. At Crighton Olive Dunn Surgical Group, we offer free GERD screenings to determine your need and our methods of treatment. If you are experiencing chest pain, it may not be related to GERD. Discuss this pain with your physician because it may be a sign of certain heart conditions or other medical needs.
A word about Barrett’s Esophagus
If you suffer from GERD, there is a small chance that it is a precursor to a potentially pre-cancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. This condition occurs when the normal tissue lining in the esophagus has been replaced by abnormal tissue.
Barrett’s esophagus is one risk factor of esophageal adenocarcinoma, a cancer within the esophagus. The chances of developing Barrett’s esophagus are relatively small, but if you have been diagnosed, talk to our physicians about scheduling regular endoscopic screenings. If you have not been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus, there is little evidence to suggest that GERD is a risk factor for cancer in the esophagus.