For more than 20 years, GERD (or gastroesophageal reflux disease) Awareness Week has been observed in November. Awareness activities aim to spread the word about GERD symptoms, encourage those suffering from chronic reflux to be checked and educate those affected about medical advances that can help prevent the progression of the disease. For some, it’s impossible to not be aware of GERD – for 1 in 5 Americans, it is a daily struggle. Increasing awareness can help educate people who are suffering in silence about the treatment options available to improve their day-to-day life.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the stomach acid or stomach contents flow back up into the esophagus, causing irritation to the lining of the esophagus – what many people call heartburn or reflux.
It’s no surprise GERD awareness week is celebrated the week of Thanksgiving, as we all love to indulge on delicious foods during the holidays. Occasional heartburn or acid reflux is normal, but experiencing symptoms on a regular basis could point to a different cause than sporadic overeating. So if you experience some reflux-type symptoms after eating that extra slice of pumpkin pie this Thanksgiving, don’t be alarmed. However, if you suffer from GERD symptoms two or more times per week, please take your symptoms seriously – they could be a sign of chronic reflux.
Do I have GERD?
GERD Awareness Week is a great time to evaluate your symptoms and determine whether or not you should talk to your healthcare provider about your reflux. Even if you are not currently suffering from reflux symptoms yourself, knowing the signs may help you recognize possible GERD symptoms in a friend or family member and encourage them to seek medical attention.
Common GERD symptoms include:
- Persistent heartburn
- Chest pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Bad breath
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronic dry cough
- Sleep difficulties
- Dental problems
While some may brush it off as “just a little heartburn,” acid reflux that occurs on a frequent basis should not be ignored. Untreated GERD can worsen over time, causing inflammation of the lining of the esophagus, a narrowing of the esophagus or bleeding. GERD also can lead to esophageal cancer.
Taking control of your health and seeking further evaluation can help improve your quality of life. Even simple lifestyle changes can help control your symptoms. For tips on handling holiday heartburn, click here.
If your heartburn symptoms are affecting your daily life, or if medication is the only thing controlling your symptoms, it is time to investigate. Click here for more information on heartburn care at FMC, or call the Heartburn Center at 740-689-6486 to learn more.