What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition wherein acidic stomach juices flow back up into the esophagus. GERD can have many causes and happen at any age, although it tends to be more common in adults.
GERD is often caused by hiatal hernias, which allow stomach acid to leak upward into the esophagus. GERD can also be caused by weight gain causing pressure on the stomach, or other conditions related to reflux. GERD may occur more often during sleep (due to gravity) or after eating.
In some cases, patients may not even be aware they have GERD, because they are not experiencing symptoms of heartburn. Many patients who come into our office are surprised to learn they have the condition.
What Issues Can GERD Cause?
But how is GERD connected to ENT issues? It’s simple: although the stomach can handle its own acidic content, the esophagus cannot. Over time, reflux of stomach juices into the esophagus can cause other problems, such as inflammation and esophagitis. Over prolonged periods, if left untreated, it can even lead to esophageal cancer.
Common ENT symptoms that may indicate GERD include:
- Voice hoarseness that starts in the morning and improves throughout the day
- Lump in the throat due to inflammation. This lump can be a constant sensation, or it may be worse in the morning or after eating. It may also be felt only when swallowing.
- Frequent throat clearing
- Chronic sore throat
- Spasms of the vocal cords, causing acute shortness of breath
- Severe nasal drip or drainage
How Virginia ENT Can Help
In many cases, patients come to us fearing the worst. If they’re experiencing reflux symptoms or throat problems they can’t explain, they may be worried about cancer or other serious conditions. Our first steps during examination are to rule that out, and then to help the patients’ symptoms improve.
If a patient comes to Virginia ENT with a throat problem that can’t be seen with a simple light in the throat, we will begin by using a topical anesthetic in the nose and then passing a fiber-optic endoscope through the nose. This allows us to look at the tissues deep in the throat for classic signs of reflux inflammation.