GERD Specialist in Philadelphia, PA
What Causes Chronic Acid Reflux (GERD)?
With a normal, healthy person, after swallowing, a valve between the esophagus and the stomach opens to allow food to pass, then it closes to prevent stomach fluids from backwashing, or “refluxing,” back up into the esophagus. A fully functional valve closes to prevent reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus.
For people with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), this valve has become dysfunctional and cannot close, allowing stomach fluids, both acid and non-acid, to backwash up into the esophagus. Non-acid reflux can be as harmful to the esophagus as acid reflux and can cause similar symptoms.
A dysfunctional valve is unable to close to prevent stomach acid from refluxing into the esophagus.
What Causes the Valve to Become Dysfunctional?
- Congenital: Though pediatric GERD is not uncommon, most children either outgrow it or are treated effectively for it as infants.
- Injury to Upper Chest: Typically the result of a sports-related injury (e.g., high school football injury) or a traumatic accident (e.g., seat-belt injury resulting from a car accident). The injury causes the valve to “stretch” out of shape.
- Obesity/Diet: Weight can be a significant contributing factor.
- Age: As people age, their musculature can lose its integrity.
Is My Acid Reflux Normal or Something More Serious?
GERD is more commonly known as chronic acid reflux disease. It is estimated that more than 23 million Americans suffer from the symptoms of GERD. GERD is caused by anatomical changes that result in the body’s natural antireflux barrier becoming dysfunctional, allowing stomach fluids to backwash up, or “reflux,” into the esophagus (the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach), exposing the esophagus to gastric acid.
What Are the Symptoms of GERD?
While heartburn is the most common symptom, there are many other symptoms, both acid-related and non-acid-related. Most GERD sufferers attribute their symptoms to acid reflux, but reflux of non-acid stomach fluids can cause similar symptoms and can be just as harmful to the esophagus.
Typical symptoms include:
- Excessive salivation (waterbrash)
- Pain or discomfort in the chest
- Reflux-related sleep disorders
- Yellow fluid or stains on pillow after sleep
- Intolerance of certain foods and liquids
Atypical symptoms can include:
- Hoarseness or laryngitis
- Frequent swallowing
- Asthma or asthma-like symptoms
- Excessive clearing of the throat
- Persistent cough
- Burning in the mouth or throat (acid taste in the mouth)
- Dental erosions or therapy-resistant gum disease or inflammation
- Discomfort in the ears and nose
Some reflux is normal, but if you suffer symptoms of reflux more than twice a week, you may have GERD. Call our office at (215) 742-9900 for a GERD evaluation at Philadelphia Gastroenterology Consultants.