UPPER PENINSULA, Mich. (WJMN) – GERD Awareness Week is November 20-26, and on this Aspirus Medical Monday we are focusing on what causes this disease and how to treat it.

David Lorensen, the surgical services manager at Aspirus Iron River Hospital and Clinics, explains what GERD is and its symptoms.

“GERD is an acronym for gastroesophageal reflux disease,” said Lorensen. “It is a thing that plagues maybe as much as a third or more people in the United States. It is very irritating after meals, in-between meals, it causes a bunch of symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation where some stomach contents come back up. It causes trouble swallowing, which we call dysphagia. Sometimes it causes things like cough, also frequent cough. It can even get into causing sinus trouble.”

There are multiple causes of GERD, including diet and genetics.

“So, eating large meals, especially before laying down, could irritate that valve from the esophagus to the stomach and make it loosen over time,” said Lorensen. “You can get the gastric acid back up into the esophagus and that’s the main cause of symptoms for GERD. Then you can have some hereditary influence on this, there could be injurie that cause this. It could be types of foods that some people eat regularly such as things like fast food, fried foods, lots of pizza, cheese, hot peppers or even fatty meats. Overtime this can play an effect on the valve.”

Less severe cases of GERD can be treated with medications, while more severe cases may require surgical procedures.

“Now we have to options that we offer here for incision-less procedures,” said Lorensen. “One of them is called the transoral incisionless fundoplication, or TIF, and that one involves a device that goes down the throat and it reshapes the valve between the esophagus and the stomach. Another one that we use is called Stretta and its where we introduce radio frequency energy right at the valve and it builds up the muscle right at the valve and the tissue so that it’s a little tighter.”

If GERD goes untreated, it could lead to other complications:

  • Severe esophagitis (Severely irritated esophagus – this involves the inner lining, but can also include all layers and create inflammation and adhesions in the chest)
  • Esophageal Stricture (where there is a narrowing in the esophagus)
  • Barrett’s Esophagus (A precancerous condition of the cells in the esophagus)
  • Esophageal Cancer

To learn more about GERD and treatments provided through Aspirus Health, you can visit aspirus.org.