GERD Causes and Complications

Causes Curses and Complications Of GERD

Acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD) is the most common upper gastrointestinal disorder in men. GERD is a condition that develops when acid or contents from the stomach come back up into the oesophagus (food pipe) to cause troublesome symptoms or complications. Acid reflux is common and 10-20 per cent of all people have symptoms of this at least once weekly.

When you eat, food passes from the throat to the stomach through the oesophagus. A ring of muscle fibres in the lower oesophagus prevents swallowed food from moving back up. When this sphincter does not close all the way, the stomach contents and acid can leak back into the oesophagus and irritate the lining of the oesophagus causing GERD.

It is a misconception that GERD occurs because of increased acid production ¡n your stomach, since generally, most people have the same amount of acid ¡n their stomach. Instead, GERD is triggered by other factors that cause the stomach acid to overwhelm the valve that normally protects the oesophagus.

Common precipitating causes of acid reflux, especially in men include tobacco chewing, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, tight fitting clothing, ingestion of certain foods such as chocolates, mint, coffee, cola drinks in excess, tried, spicy or fatty foods, garlics and onions, acidic foods like tomatoes or citrus juices etc. Medicines, more frequently taken by men for illnesses such as hypertension, heart disease and lung disease may also cause or increase reflux. Pain killers for conditions like arthritis or spondylosis may also directly damage the lining of the oesophagus and cause symptoms of GERD.

Acid reflux may at times be related with hiatus hernia, a condition where a part of the stomach, through the diaphragm gets pushed up into the chest cavity. People with severe GERD mostly have a hiatus hernia. Obesity and no exercise frequently contribute to this.

Heartburn is one of the main symptoms of GERD and it is a burning pain that starts behind the breastbone and may travel to the back of the throat. The pain can last for at least two hours and is often worsened by lying down, eating or bending over.

Other symptoms of GERD include vomiting (swallowed liquid or food going back up into the mouth or throat), belching. a bitter or sour taste in the back of the mouth or throat, excessive saliva, vomiting or upset stomach. People who inhale the reflux acid may experience change in voice, coughing, wheezing or hoarseness.

Gastric acid in GERD can damage the lining of the oesophagus, which can cause pain and inflammation, which if severe can sometimes mimic the pain of a heart attack (angina).

More severe problems associated with GERD include severe esophagitis, oesophageal ulcers and oesophageal strictures (nan-owing of the oesophageal diameter due to scarring). An important and increasingly common oesophageal complication of GERD is Barrett’s oesophagus.

In this condition, due to long-standing GERD, abnormal columnar lining cells replace normal squamous type lining cells of the lower oesophagus. This may lead to a premalignant condition (dysplasia) which it untreated can eventually lead to development of cancer of the oesophagus, especially in men.

Complications of GERD

(Can also occur outside the oesophagus)

  • Atypical chest pain
  • Ear, nose, and throat (ENT) manifestations
  • Lung problems like asthma, chronic cough, chronic bronchitis,
  • Repeated pneumonia
  • Sleep apnea

Occasional heartburn is common and does not require you to seek a consultation with your specialist. However, if GERD symptoms start occurring too frequently or cause repeated distressing symptoms, you should see your doctor.

Gastric acid in GERD can damage the lining of the oesophagus, which can cause pain and inflammation, which if severe can sometimes mimic the pain of a heart attack

Red flag’ symptoms such as difficulty in swallowing, painful swallowing, unexplained weight loss or bleeding should never be ignored or taken lightly and should prompt you to seek immediate medical attention for further investigations, as these herald severe diseases or a different diagnosis than GERD. Most GERD cases can be managed successfully with only lifestyle changes and occasional medications.

  • The lifestyle changes include the following:
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently instead of two or three large meals
  • Eat meals earlier especially dinner
  • Avoid lying down within two or three hours after meals
  • Reduce caffeine and Alcohol Intake
  • Lose excess weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop smoking,
  • Wear loose comfortable clothing


A simple solution to prevent or treat GERD is to make a note of and avoid foods that contribute to reflux. Some people with night time reflux may be helped by raising the head end of the bed while sleeping to reduce symptoms. Using over-the- counter and adds after meals and at bedtime for occasional symptoms may give temporary relief but may not last very long. And keep in mind, diarrhoea or constipation is a common side effect of repeated use of antacids. In conclusion, GERD and its symptoms are normally a reflection of a person’s lifestyle and a positive approach will work a long way in preventing and managing GERD.

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