Last week was GERD Awareness Week, a week dedicated towards raising awareness about gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition that affects tens of millions of Americans. Many people associate GERD as simply heartburn or acid reflux, it’s a condition often viewed as a symptom rather than an actual disease. The fact of the matter is that many people simply aren’t aware of what GERD really is, the variety of symptoms it can cause, and the fact that it’s a very treatable condition.
GERD is one of the main conditions we treat at Tampa Bay Reflux Center, and we’re always shocked by how many of our GERD patients have either never heard of the disease or didn’t actually know what it really was. That’s why last week was so important to us, it’s a chance to educate the public on a condition that many of them likely are suffering from and don’t even know. That being said, we think GERD awareness shouldn’t be contained to just one week of the year. We’re constantly seeking to education patients and the general public on everything GERD not just during GERD Awareness Week, but every week!
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, more commonly referred to as GERD, is a chronic digestive disorder affecting the lower esophageal sphincter (that ring of muscle between your esophagus and your stomach). In patients with GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter is either weaker, shorter, or has moved into a location that is other than normal. This causes it to relax inappropriately, allowing the stomach’s contents to flow back up into the esophagus and causing gastroesophageal reflux. Commom symptoms of GERD include: heartburn, regurgitation, bloating, asthma, cough, hoarseness, clearing of the throat, sleep disruption, and tooth enamel decay.
Who does it effect?
GERD is an interesting disease because it is undiscriminating in its occurrence. It spans all age ranges, genders, and ethnicities, and has a number of risk factors that make it more likely to occur. Common risk factors that may increase your likelihood of developing GERD are obesity, hiatal hernia, pregnancy, connective tissue disorders, and delayed stomach emptying.
How is GERD treated?
The good news about GERD is that it’s an incredibly treatable condition. The right GERD treatment can vary from person to person, and oftentimes what your doctor prescribes as your treatment plan is largely dependent upon the severity of your GERD. For short-term relief of symptoms in minor cases of GERD, some doctors may recommend medication or lifestyle changes. It’s important to remember that these methods of treatment are only temporary and in many cases aren’t effective. In fact, 40% of people who take medication for their reflux still experience symptoms.
Anti-reflux surgery, unlike other treatment options like medication or lifestyle changes, is the only form of GERD treatment that effectively relieves symptoms long-term by treating the root cause, i.e. your GERD. Most acid reflux surgeries aim to repair the lower esophageal sphincter—or LES—the damaged/weakened valve that causes acid reflux and GERD. There are three main surgeries used to treat GERD: Nissen Fundoplication, TIF/Esophyx, and LINX. We perform all of them at Tampa Bay Reflux Surgery.
The first step to overcoming GERD is educating yourself on the condition and familiarizing yourself with the symptoms so that you can determine whether or not the issues you’ve been dealing with may be caused by a condition like GERD. The second step? Finding a reflux specialist who you feel comfortable talking to, one that can walk you through the diagnosis, treatment, and life-time management process. If you’re looking for a top-notch reflux doctor and you live in Tampa, St. Pete, Brandon, or the surrounding areas, our surgeons are some of the most highly respected in the country. Schedule an appointment today!