It’s no coincidence that GERD awareness week takes place during the week of Thanksgiving. While most people associate Thanksgiving with feasting on turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie, this overindulgence is also responsible for an increase in heartburn, which is a primary symptom of GERD. GERD awareness week is a public health campaign whose purpose is to call attention to the need for increased understanding of the disease.
GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux which occurs when the contents of the stomach back up into the esophagus. Acid reflux becomes GERD when it is chronic, causes bothersome symptoms or injury to the esophagus. The amount of acid reflux required to cause GERD varies.
It’s important to be knowledgeable about GERD and its symptoms because untreated GERD can lead to serious health complications including damage to the esophagus, respiratory problems and ulcers.
Let’s test your GERD awareness with a brief true/false quiz.
GERD is diagnosed with a blood test. TRUE FALSE
GERD is caused by overeating. TRUE FALSE
GERD can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight. TRUE FALSE
Heartburn is the only symptom of GERD. TRUE FALSE
Heartburn is the same thing as acid reflux. TRUE FALSE
The best treatment for GERD is medication. TRUE FALSE
Complications of GERD include esophageal cancer. TRUE FALSE
Heartburn that occurs once a week or less is nothing to be concerned about. TRUE FALSE
Major surgery is the only option for people whose GERD does not improve with medicine and lifestyle changes. FALSE
FALSE. Physicians diagnose GERD by reviewing your symptoms and medical history. It may be further evaluated by endoscopy, biopsy, treatment trial, or other diagnostic tests.
FALSE. GERD happens when the ring of muscles between the esophagus and stomach do not work properly. The muscle opens to let food into the stomach, but if it doesn’t close properly, then the stomach acid moves back up into the esophagus. Overeating can make this condition worse, but overeating itself does not cause GERD.
TRUE. There is not a specific cause for GERD, but many lifestyle factors such as maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding certain foods, not smoking, and avoiding alcohol can help prevent symptoms.
FALSE. Other symptoms of GERD include stomach pain, non-burning chest pain, difficulty swallowing or food getting stuck, persistent laryngitis/hoarseness, persistent sore throat, and chronic cough.
FALSE. The terms heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably. However, they have very different meanings. Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux, which is a medical condition that may or may not be serious. GERD is the is the chronic, more severe form of acid reflux.
FALSE. Medication will often control the symptoms of GERD, but there are risks of taking medicine for a long period. Furthermore, medicine does not address the root cause, which is the muscle that isn’t functioning properly. Treatment should also include lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding certain foods, and not smoking.
TRUE. GERD can sometimes cause Barrett’s esophagus, which is a pre-cancerous condition. This condition does not cause symptoms, but the cell changes are diagnosed with an endoscopy. Barrett’s esophagus may lead to cancer of the esophagus, which is very serious.
TRUE. The symptoms of occasional heartburn can be alleviated by taking a couple of Rolaids or Tums and watching what you eat. Occasional heartburn does not usually cause other, more serious health problems.
FALSE. There is a new method called the LINX System that is a minimally invasive, outpatient procedure. The LINX System is comprised of a small ring of titanium beads, each with magnetic cores. About the size of a quarter, the LINX is placed around the lower end of the esophagus, where it joins the stomach. When food passes down the esophagus into the stomach, the natural action of swallowing breaks the magnetic attraction between the beads, allowing the food to pass. Once the food passes, however, the magnetic bond closes the ring again, preventing the stomach acid from exiting the stomach.
GERD is a treatable disease, but many people remain undiagnosed because they don’t even know the symptoms or they believe that it is not something serious. GERD Awareness Week is a reminder to see your physician if you experience frequent heartburn. Your physician can accurately diagnose your condition and recommend proper treatment to prevent serious problems from developing in the future.
For more information on the LINX system for acid reflux, the ORBERA™ Managed Weight Loss Program or LAP-BAND® surgery, you may contact Dr. Sidney Rohrscheib at the Illinois Bariatric Center at 217-935-7037. Illinois Bariatric Center is one of the few practices in Central Illinois that is qualified to offer the non-surgical LINX and ORBERA systems.
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