According to published reports, President Barack Obama was rushed to a military hospital near Washington D.C. on Saturday after complaining of a sore throat. Doctors there diagnosed Obama with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) caused by acid reflux.
Comedian Joan Rivers also suffered from acid reflux (GERD). She was undergoing an endoscopy (a test to diagnose GERD acid reflux) when she died tragically in a Manhattan clinic on Sept. 4 at age 81.
Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and the esophagus -- the so-called "food pipe" that carries food to your stomach.
GERD occurs when corrosive acid and bile from your stomach backs up into your esophagus causing burning and inflammation.
Acid reflux is when food and liquid is regurgitated into your esophagus and mouth.
The digestive process begins the moment food enters your mouth. Enzymes in your mouth begins working to break down the food as it travels down your esophagus toward your stomach.
A small band of muscle around the bottom of your esophagus called the esophageal sphincter allows food and liquid to enter your stomach where it is digested. But if the sphincter is weak the acid and stomach content backs up into your esophagus.
Stomach acid can cause serious damage to the more sensitive tissue lining of the esophagus. Most people experience mild symptoms of heartburn occasionally. These symptoms can be managed with over the counter medications.
But people with GERD experience discomfort that affects their activities of daily living.
GERD is diagnosed when doctors see damage done to your esophagus.
SIGN AND SYMPTOMS
Signs and Symptoms of GERD varies from mild to severe and from occasional to chronic (longterm).
The cause of GERD is stomach acid and bile irritation the lining if the esophagus. Risk factors include:
Your doctor will run a series of tests to diagnose your GERD, including X-rays of your abdomen. You will be asked to swallow Barium so abnormalities show up clearly.
Endoscopy: The doctor will pass a flexible tube into your throat to look at your esophagus. This is the test that comedian Joan Rivers was undergoing when she died. The test is safe when conducted by qualified doctors and technicians.
TREATMENT AND MEDICATIONS
Medications include antacids to neutralize stomach acid and medications to reduce or block acid production (Prilosec, Prevacid, Tagamet, Nexium, Zantac, etc). Some of these medications are available over the counter and do not require a prescription.
Surgery is usually the last resort if medications and lifestyle changes (diet, stop smoking, etc) fails to alleviate your symptoms.
Complications of GERD (acid reflux) include esophageal stricture (thickening and narrowing of the esophagus), esophageal ulcers (open sores in esophagus), and cancer of the esophagus.
Call your personal physician immediately or go to the ER if over the medication does not alleviate your symptoms or if you experience symptoms more than twice a week.
If left untreated, serious injuries to the esophagus will occur.
This has been your Medical Minute.
More Info On the Web
GERD - Mayo Clinic
GERD - WebMD
Acid Reflux (GERD) - eMedicine Health
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