Acid Reflux – Determining the Difference Between Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease and Achalasia
Gastro esophageal reflux disease, more commonly known as GERD, is a form of condition that is caused by a weakened lower esophageal sphincter. This causes the individual to have an acid reflux which is a result of the stomach acids going up the esophagus. Achalasia, on the other hand, is a condition where the nerves responsible for esophageal contractions become inanimate or malfunctions, which causes the sphincter not to relax in a normal manner. GERD, or gastro esophageal reflux disease, can result in a serious condition known as Barrett’s Esophagus, if the disease is not treated accordingly. Barrett’s Esophagus is a precancerous disease, which is why it should be taken seriously. Unlike GERD, Achalasia can lead to the regurgitation of undigested food while lying down or sleeping, if not treated. The regurgitation can be accidentally inhaled into the lungs, which can then cause pneumonia or lung abscess.
When it comes to distinguishing gastro esophageal reflux disease and achalasia, it is essential to learn about their respective symptoms. The symptom that is most likely to be associated with GERD is acid indigestion, more commonly known as heartburn. However, this symptom can sometimes be confusing. Just because you have an acid indigestion, it does not necessarily mean that you have GERD. Heartburn should be accompanied with frequent coughing, sore throat, hoarseness, wheezing, and other possible symptoms before it can be ruled as a gastro esophageal reflux disease. When it comes to achalasia, on the other hand, symptoms may include nighttime coughing, difficulty swallowing, and non-acidic regurgitation. Knowing these symptoms can help you distinguish between the two conditions. Although to accurately confirm whether you have gastro esophageal reflux disease, achalasia, or a garden variety acid indigestion, certain testes can be done to be sure. To confirm GERD, an endoscopic examination can be done. An x-ray of the esophagus while swallowing can confirm achalasia.
An important thing that one must consider is that a typical acid indigestion which is left untreated can cause serious damage to the lower esophageal sphincter and can then lead to gastro esophageal reflux disease. Sometimes GERD, or gastro esophageal reflux disease, as well as the more common acid indigestion can present similar symptoms as achalasia. To be more certain, an endoscopic examination must be performed in order to get the appropriate treatment. Speaking of treatments, the treatment for gastro esophageal reflux disease can vary from altering the individual’s diet, which means avoiding fatty and highly acidic foods and beverages, to antacids and other more potent medications. Treating achalasia, however, will require certain drugs that can help relax the lower esophageal sphincter. Mechanical dilation and botulism toxin injections can be employed as well.
Having accurate knowledge with regards to such conditions can be helpful. However, it should be noted that whenever certain symptoms like esophageal spasms and swallowing difficulties occur, you should never dismiss it as just plain old acid reflux or heartburn. Such symptoms could present an underlying condition that only a doctor or a physician is capable of determining. So when you experience some of the symptoms that you have read in this article, it would still be in your best interest to consult with your doctor.