Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a condition in which stomach acid regularly spills up into the esophagus. Commonly known as acid reflux, this gastrointestinal condition is caused when the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle around the base of your esophagus that opens to let food through, fails to close completely, allowing stomach acid to wash up into the throat. This condition can lead to other issues, including inflammation, ulcers, bleeding, esophageal narrowing, or precancerous changes.
GERD – Symptoms and Risk Factors
GERD is most often manifest by heartburn—a burning sensation in the chest that may travel upward through the throat. Other symptoms include:
- Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing
- Sore throat
- Chest pain
- Vomiting up food
- Dry cough
- Feeling a lump in your throat
If you have chronic heartburn or experience any of these other symptoms regularly, you likely have GERD. Various risk factors may lead to acid reflux, including obesity, diabetes, hiatal hernia, smoking, pregnancy, dry mouth, asthma, or delayed gastric emptying. Many of these tend to result in extra pressure being placed on stomach contents, forcing them up through the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and into the throat.
Treatment is often handled with medications and diet changes that control acid reflux. They may be as simple as antacids to neutralize acid or drastic as meds that completely block stomach acid production. Others are designed to strengthen the LES.
The problem with medications is they often do not work. About 4 out of every 10 people who take medications for GERD still experience symptoms, and many medications have negative side effects, including increased risk of bone fracture and abnormal magnesium levels.
More invasive treatments like surgery can have a much more reliable result for patients with chronic heart burn and acid reflux. Surgical procedures depend on what’s causing your GERD in the first place. For example, laparoscopic hernia repair can be used to fix a hiatal hernia causing reflux.
The LINX System
One minimally invasive surgery that can be used to strengthen a weakened LES is the LINX System. This system uses a ring of magnets that are placed around the LES. The magnets, which are enclosed in titanium beads and connected by titanium wire, cause the ring to constrict a little, assisting closure of the LES. It applies just enough pressure to prevent acid reflux, but not so much that it inhibits swallowing.
Surgical procedures are generally reserved for those who have chronic GERD symptoms and who have already tried other treatments without success. To learn more about GERD and find out whether you qualify for LINX or other minimally invasive treatments, contact Dr. Malladi’s office today.