Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as peptic oesophagitis or heartburn, is a chronic and progressive condition resulting from stomach acid flowing back up the oesophagus and irritating the lining of this tube that connects your throat to your stomach. It is strongly advised that you seek timely medical attention if you suspect that you could be having gastroesophageal reflux disease. Singapore, in particular, maybe an appealing treatment destination if you're looking for affordable treatments at world-class facilities.
As GERD progresses, acid can damage the tissue that lines your oesophagus. Symptoms of GERD include:
- Chest pain
- Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Sour taste in the mouth
- Tooth enamel erosion.
- Sore throat
These symptoms may vary based on how far the oesophagus has been damaged by acid.
What Happens to the Body with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
Although many people who suffer from gastroesophageal disease in Singapore do not experience any major complications, certain conditions may be caused or exacerbated by long-term exposure to stomach acid. One of the main complications associated with GERD is oesophagitis which causes inflammation and damage to cells in the oesophagus.
Chronic oesophagitis can lead to scar tissue formation, making it easier for stomach acid to back up into the oesophagus. Oesophageal strictures are bands of scar tissue that form inside the organ over time that may narrow the opening between the throat and your stomach.
This can further prevent food from passing through easily, resulting in a feeling of fullness and bloating after eating and chest pain. If the oesophageal stricture becomes severe enough, it may cause difficulty swallowing or vomiting blood.
Other complications associated with GERD include inflammation of tissues surrounding the oesophagus, such as the voice box and windpipe, and can lead to hoarseness. This usually only occurs if stomach acid backs up into the throat rather than just the oesophagus.
The acid can irritate your larynx, which will cause you to experience a sore throat that often worsens at night due to low levels of saliva production while you sleep. Chronic exposure to stomach acid may also damage cells in the nose, resulting in chronic nasal congestion, dryness, and other symptoms like sneezing and a runny nose.
In rare cases, patients may experience swelling of the pancreas, which is a gland in the upper left part of your abdomen connected to your stomach that produces enzymes used in digestion. The inflammation can also damage this gland, preventing it from producing enough digestive juices to break down food particles, resulting in malnutrition.
In very severe cases, GERD can potentially lead to Barrett's oesophagus, a condition in which the cells lining the inside of your oesophagus are replaced with abnormal tissue that increases your risk of developing oesophageal cancer over time as these abnormal cells multiply uncontrollably. If you have been experiencing symptoms of GERD for an extended period of time or if you have been diagnosed with any complications associated with gastroesophageal disease in Singapore, then it is essential that you receive appropriate treatment as soon as possible to prevent any further damage.
What to do About Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease?
Treatment for gastroesophageal disease in Singapore can include lifestyle changes, medications, and in some cases, surgery. Your doctor may suggest these natural remedies: avoid foods that trigger your symptoms, eat smaller portions at mealtimes, lose excess weight, exercise 30 minutes a day and elevate the head of your bed to keep stomach acid from backing up into your oesophagus when you sleep.
In addition, here are a few things you should do if you have been diagnosed with GERD:
- Avoid smoking if you are an active smoker
- Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime
- Maintain a healthy weight and limit alcohol consumption
If these lifestyle changes don't help reduce your symptoms or if you are experiencing severe GERD symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), vomiting blood (hematemesis), or chronic cough, schedule an appointment with your doctor for further evaluation.
What to Expect at an appointment with your doctor for GERD?
If you are experiencing severe GERD symptoms, your doctor will likely order an endoscopy. During this procedure, a tube with a tiny camera attached to it (endoscope) is inserted down your throat and stomach so the doctor can take images of the inside of your oesophagus.
Your doctor may use these images to look for inflammation or ulcers in your oesophagus that could cause dysphagia or difficulty swallowing (hematemesis). If you have been diagnosed with GERD based on symptoms alone without an endoscopy, you should schedule one even if your symptoms don't warrant immediate treatment.
Your doctor may advise against eating for a few hours before the test so they can get clear images during your procedure. You should follow all instructions you receive during your endoscopy.
If you are hospitalised for the procedure, you will be instructed to stay in bed and refrain from movement during the test. You may be placed on an IV drip before the test to keep you hydrated.
If your doctor orders additional testing, such as a 24-hour pH study or ambulatory oesophageal recording (AER), they will give you medication to help prevent any movement in the muscles of your oesophagus. You will swallow a pill attached to a string with some wires inside so that it can record your symptoms over the course of 24 hours.
What if the Treatment does not Work?
In some cases, an endoscopy may show that your oesophagus is normal. If you continue to experience the same symptoms even after trying lifestyle changes and medications for GERD, your doctor can perform additional testing, including 24-hour pH studies or ambulatory oesophageal recording (AER), if they believes that you are experiencing non-acid reflux.
If you require surgery for gastroesophageal disease in Singapore, your doctors may recommend laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication in which they make an incision about six inches long just above the navel and wrap the top of the stomach around the bottom of this section the organ like a belt to tighten it. This will prevent acid from backing up into the oesophagus.
If there is a problem with the valve itself, your doctor may advise anti-reflux surgery in which they create a new valve from part of the stomach or intestine. The surgeon will also remove any scar tissue built up around the lower oesophageal sphincter to prevent leaks.
In cases where medications and diet changes do not improve symptoms for patients experiencing severe GERD, doctors can perform endoscopic injection therapy in which they inject a solution into the lower oesophageal sphincter to help tighten it or increase pressure on it. In extremely rare cases, your doctor may suggest fundoplication surgery if other procedures cannot be performed safely due to preexisting medical conditions you have, such as heart disease or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
The Bottom Line
Doctors diagnose gastroesophageal reflux disease in Singapore based on symptoms, the results of an endoscopy, and by ruling out other conditions that can cause similar symptoms. There is no cure for gastroesophageal reflux disease; however, there are many treatments available to help manage your symptoms so that you can live a normal, fulfilling life.
Andrea’s Digestive Clinic: Colon, Liver, Gallbladder, GERD/Acid Reflux Specialist
#21-11/12 Royal Square at Novena, 101 Irrawaddy Road, Singapore 329565
+65 6264 2836