Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) | Tampa General Hospital

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Overview

Tampa General Hospital’s Digestive Diseases Institute offers treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that occurs when stomach acid repeatedly backs up into the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth and the stomach). While it’s common to experience acid reflux from time to time, repeated bouts may support a GERD diagnosis (doctors often consider acid reflux to be chronic if it occurs at least twice a week for several weeks). According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)*, researchers estimate that GERD affects approximately 20% of the U.S. population.

Causes and Risk Factors of GERD

When you swallow, your lower esophageal sphincter (a circular band of muscle located at the bottom of your esophagus) relaxes, allowing food and liquids to travel from your mouth to your stomach. Normally, the sphincter closes once you’re done swallowing. But if it remains open, it can allow stomach acid to re-enter the esophagus.

Certain factors can increase your risk of developing GERD, including:

  • Eating large meals
  • Eating fatty or fried foods
  • Eating late at night
  • Drinking alcohol or coffee
  • Having a hiatal hernia
  • Having certain connective tissue disorders (e.g., scleroderma)
  • Having certain congenital defects (e.g., esophageal atresia)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being pregnant
  • Smoking or regularly being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Taking certain medications (e.g., aspirin, benzodiazepines, calcium channel blockers, ibuprofen, theophylline and tricyclic antidepressants)
  • Having previously undergone surgery in your chest or upper abdomen

Signs and Symptoms of GERD

When your stomach’s contents flow back up into your esophagus, it can irritate your esophageal lining and cause it to become inflamed, producing symptoms such as:

  • Heartburn (a burning sensation in your chest that might worsen at night or while you’re lying down)
  • Pain in your chest or upper abdomen
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • A sensation of having a lump in your throat
  • Regurgitation of food or a sour-tasting liquid
  • Nausea

If you think you might have GERD, it’s important to promptly seek treatment, since failing to treat this condition could lead to complications such as asthma, Barrett’s esophagus, chronic coughing, esophageal stricture, esophagitis, hoarseness, laryngitis and tooth enamel deterioration.

How Do You Know if You Have GERD or LPR?

Like GERD, laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR) involves a backflow of stomach acid. But while GERD is caused by a malfunctioning lower esophageal sphincter, LPR occurs when the upper esophageal sphincter fails to close. When this happens, it allows stomach acid to flow past the esophagus and into the throat and upper airways, causing a sore throat, postnasal drip, hoarseness, coughing and difficulty breathing.

Diagnosing GERD

A doctor will begin by reviewing your medical history, asking about the symptoms you’ve been experiencing and performing a physical examination. If they suspect that you have GERD, they may order one or more of the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Biopsy
  • Esophageal manometry
  • Esophageal pH test
  • Esophagram
  • Transnasal esophagoscopy
  • Upper endoscopy

GERD Treatment

In many cases, individuals with GERD are able to relieve their symptoms by taking certain medications (e.g., antacids, H2 blockers and proton pump inhibitors) and implementing certain lifestyle changes. You may want to try:

  • Eating more slowly
  • Avoiding foods that trigger your symptoms
  • Waiting at least three hours to go to bed after eating
  • Elevating the head of your bed
  • Falling asleep on your left side
  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Losing excess weight
  • Reducing your alcohol consumption
  • Quitting smoking

However, in some instances, surgery will be necessary to reinforce the lower esophageal sphincter. Fundoplication involves wrapping the top of the stomach around the sphincter, while transoral incisionless fundoplication (TIF) uses polypropylene fasteners to create a partial wrap around the lower esophagus. Another procedure involves wrapping a LINX device (a ring of small magnetic beads) around the lower esophageal sphincter—the magnets allow foods and beverages to travel to the stomach but otherwise keep the sphincter closed. An experienced medical provider can recommend the GERD treatment method that’s best suited to your needs.

TGH’s Approach to Treating GERD

You can feel confident turning to Tampa General Hospital’s GERD and Esophageal Surgery Center for GERD treatment. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • We take a multidisciplinary approach to care, with highly skilled surgeons, gastroenterologists, radiologists, medical oncologists and pharmacotherapists working together at a single location.
  • We supply patients with customized treatment plans that are carefully tailored to their individual needs and designed to help them achieve the best possible outcomes.
  • We proudly operate a GERD and Esophageal Surgery Center, which offers tertiary and quaternary esophageal care, meaning we can handle complex cases.
  • U.S. News & World Report named Tampa General Hospital one of the best hospitals for Gastroenterology and GI Surgery for 2023-24.

Contact us at (800) 822-3627 today to learn more and schedule a consultation with one of the GERD specialists at our Tampa, FL, treatment center.

*National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)