Acid reflux disease, also known as Gastro-esophageal Reflux Disease, or GERD, is a common ailment, affecting between 5%-7% of the population. In order to understand what GERD is it is important to be familiar with how the esophagus works. A long muscular tube, the esophagus carries food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach. The average adult esophagus is around ten to thirteen inches long and approximately an half an inch in diameter. GERD is caused by the backflow of acid from the stomach into the esophagus, usually because the lower esophageal sphincter does not close properly. When this happens over a long period of time, the lining of this tract becomes eroded, causing discomfort and pain.
Symptoms of the disease are fairly straightforward and are very similar to the symptoms of heartburn. GERD often include a frequent burning sensation, right behind the breastbone, which sometimes worsens when lying down for extended periods of time. While most cases of heartburn turn out to be non-life threatening, it is important that you visit your doctor at the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, the symptoms of both indigestion and GERD can also imitate those of heart disease, so it is very important that you seek medical attention to make sure that you get the correct diagnosis.
There are a number of medical tests which your doctor can perform which will confirm the diagnosis of GERD. After your doctor or healthcare professional has taken your medical history, he or she will most likely conduct an test using an Endoscope, a long flexible imaging instrument. This will allow the doctor to visibly exam your esophagus.
If you are diagnosed with Acid Reflux disease, there are a number of treatment options available to you, such as making changes to your diet, reducing stress, and taking over the counter antacids. Serious cases of GERD may require a prescription drug to reduce the acid being produced by your stomach, but lifestyle changes are often enough to control symptoms successfully.