Gastroesophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as GERD, affects 1 in 5 people across the United States. GERD is often informally referred to as heartburn or acid reflux although they are technically not interchangeable. GERD can develop in almost anyone of any age and sometimes it can develop for reasons unknown. However, if you fall within one of the following categories, you are at a higher risk and are more susceptible to develop GERD?
Risk Factors Associated with GERD
Obesity or being overweight is a risk factor for developing GERD. This may be due to the additional weight causing pressure on the stomach which in turn causes stomach acid and contents to travel back up your esophagus. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the pressure on the stomach and thus the symptoms of GERD.
Pregnancy causes many bodily changes - several of which can cause GERD. The increased weight and growth of the fetus creates pressure on the stomach causing stomach contents and acid to go up the esophagus. Pregnancy hormones also cause the lower esophagus to weaken allowing stomach acids and content to push through more easily.
Exposure to Cigarette Smoke
Smokers, past smokers, and those repeatedly exposed to second-hand smoke are more susceptible to experience Gastroesophageal reflux disease. This is due to nicotine causing the relaxation in the esophagus which allows the acids and content of the stomach to come up. Quitting smoking or avoiding second-hand smoke can prevent development or reduce symptoms of GERD.
Medications and Supplements
Certain medications and supplements can also cause GERD by relaxing the lower esophagus or causing inflammation of the esophagus.
A hiatal hernia occurs when a part of your stomach protrudes through your diaphragm and into your chest. Some hiatal hernias do not cause severe symptoms but when they are large, they will force stomach contents to back up into your esophagus and cause GERD.
Other Disease or Condition
There are also several diseases and conditions which have been linked to the development of GERD; such as:
Patients with Type II Diabetes often have an increased chance of developing GERD.
Asthma and GERD have a direct effect on one another. Asthma (as well as certain asthma medications) can cause relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter which can cause stomach contents to rise. In turn, acid reflux can inflame the lungs, and make asthma worse.
Connective tissue disorders
Patients with connective tissue disorders tend to experience severe GERD.
Zollinger Ellison syndrome
Some patients with Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome develop GERD since the disease causes the stomach to generate a lot of acids.
When to See a Doctor for GERD
If you feel that you may be experiencing symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) it is imperative that you seek medical advice for GERD treatment. If left untreated, GERD can cause many future medical issues from continued damage to the esophagus over a long period of time. Further damage to the esophagus can be prevented if GERD is diagnosed and treated promptly by your medical provider.
Dr. Steven Williams is known as the surgeon of choice for Hiatal Hernia / GERD, Gallbladder, Hernia, Varicose Veins and Spleen Surgery. Please contact us to set up an appointment to discover relief from your GERD symptoms.