GERD and Laryngopharyngeal Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease caused by a weakness in the lower esophageal sphincter, a muscle between the esophagus and stomach. When this muscle is stretched out, it allows stomach acid to creep back into the esophagus. This causes acid reflux, also known as heartburn, indigestion, and regurgitation.
Laryngopharyngeal reflux is a condition where acidic fluid from the stomach mists into the voice box or lungs, which can cause adult-onset asthma, chronic cough, and lung fibrosis.
Symptoms of GERD
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. Other GERD symptoms include:
- Ear pain
- A bitter taste in the mouth
- Sinus issues
- Trouble swallowing
- Rotting teeth
Dangers of untreated GERD
GERD doesn’t just cause heartburn and indigestion. It can also lead to serious health issues like pneumonia, asthma, chronic throat inflammation, Barrett’s esophagus (a condition that causes damage to the esophagus lining), dysplasia (abnormal cell growth), and esophageal cancer.
How GERD is diagnosed
If you frequently have any of the symptoms above, take this short quiz from the Esophageal Institute (EI) to see if you’re at risk for GERD. Even if you do have symptoms, the only way to really know if you have GERD is through a series of tests with a clinician.
Some of the tests we may use are:
- Sedated traditional endoscopy: This outpatient procedure uses an endoscope, a flexible tube with a camera and light attached to it, to go through your mouth to look at your esophagus, stomach, and part of the small intestine.
- Unsedated transnasal endoscopy: If you’d rather not be sedated, we can feed a very thin endoscope through your nose into your esophagus to look at it. Another unsedated option is a capsule endoscopy. You swallow a pill camera, which then sends images wirelessly to a receiver.
- pH acid monitoring: This test monitors the levels of stomach acid in your esophagus. An endoscope is used to place a disposable capsule into your esophagus. It sends information to a receiver worn around your waist for 48 hours.
- High resolution manometry: Also known as a “swallow test,” a small catheter in your esophagus measures the strength, pressure, and coordination of your muscles as you swallow small amounts of liquid.
- A 24-hour impedance catheter: If you experience a cough, respiratory, or uncommon GERD symptoms, you may receive this test. A small catheter inserted through your nose will measure how much the contents of your stomach have flowed into your esophagus and how close it is to your voice box.
Proton pump inhibitors (PPI) and H2 blockers are two drugs that can help reduce the amount of acid produced by your stomach. Many people notice symptoms like heartburn decrease when they take these GERD medications on a regular basis.
If GERD medications give you severe side effects or stop working, surgery may be the right option for you.
Two of the surgeries we do at the EI are:
- Laparoscopic fundoplication: This minimally invasive surgery wraps your lower esophagus with a portion of the upper part of your stomach to strengthen the weak sphincter. This helps prevent stomach contents from flowing back into the esophagus. The operation typically lasts one to two hours and patients go home after 24 hours.
- Magnetic Sphincter Augmentation (LINX® reflux management system) by surgical implant: An FDA-approved device, called a LINX® device, is wrapped around the bottom of your esophagus during this laparoscopic procedure. Almost like tiny beads on a bracelet, magnetic beads hold your esophageal sphincter closed but let food move into your stomach when you swallow. The LINX device is removable and is typically inserted during an outpatient procedure.
The difference LINX® made
Call (412) 359-GERD (412) 359-4373 in Pittsburgh or (844) 412-GERD (844) 412-4373 in Erie for more information or to book a consultation. You can also request for us to call you.