6 Risk factors of GERD

6 Risk factors of GERD

Many patients come to us with symptoms of GERD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when stomach acid continuously flows back into your esophagus, the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. This backwash, or acid reflux, can irritate the lining of your esophagus and over time can cause GERD. 

A lot of people experience acid reflux at different times of their lives, however when it happens repeatedly over time, some may need surgery to ease the symptoms.

Let’s take a look at several symptoms of GERD and 6 risk factors…

Symptoms of GERD

Common signs and symptoms of GERD include:

  • Burning sensation in your chest usually after eating, which gets worse at night or while lying down
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Upper abdominal or chest pain
  • Sensation of a lump in the throat
  • Trouble swallowing

With nighttime reflux you may also experience an ongoing cough, worsening asthma or inflammation of vocal cords. 

6 Risk Factors Associated with GERD

GERD can develop in anyone, of any age and sometimes it develops for no known reason. However, if you fall within one of the following categories, you are at a higher risk and are more susceptible to developing GERD.

  1. Obesity: Obesity or being overweight can put additional weight-causing pressure on the stomach, which in turn causes stomach acid and contents to travel back up your esophagus. Maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce the pressure on the stomach and thus the symptoms of GERD.
  2. Bulging of the top of the stomach up above the diaphragm (hiatal hernia): A hiatal hernia occurs when a part of your stomach protrudes through your diaphragm and into your chest. Some large hiatal hernias will force stomach contents back up into the esophagus causing GERD.
  3. Pregnancy: The increased weight and growth of the fetus can put extra pressure on the stomach. Pregnancy hormones can also cause the esophagus to weaken allowing stomach acids to rise more easily.
  4. Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma: Patients with connective tissue disorders tend to have severe problems with GERD.
  5. Asthma: Asthma and certain asthma medications can cause relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter which can cause stomach contents to rise. Because of this, acid reflux can inflame the lungs, making asthma worse.
  6. Delayed stomach emptying

Chronic inflammation in your esophagus can cause esophagitis, inflammation of the tissue in the esophagus, sometimes resulting in an open sore (ulcer). This can cause pain and make swallowing difficult. 

Damage to the lower esophagus from stomach acid can also cause scar tissue to form and cause changes to the tissue lining, which can increase your risk of esophageal cancer. 

When to See a General Surgeon

If you have been experiencing symptoms of GERD, our general surgeons can perform an upper endoscopy, or EGD to examine the insides of your upper digestive tract. Using an endoscope, a thin scope with a light and camera at the tip, our general surgeons can look inside your upper digestive tract, esophagus, stomach and first section of the small intestine. 

Our general surgeons can also perform a combination surgery, a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy surgery. Learn more about the combination surgery here

Learn more about our digestive screenings, or call our office today to book an appointment. 

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