GERD is the short name for gastroesophageal reflux.
With GERD, stomach acid flows backward from the stomach into the esophagus. It is painful, with patients feeling heartburn. Patients often need to avoid alcohol, fatty foods and other substances that trigger GERD. Their doctors also may prescribe medicine.
Barrett’s esophagus is damage to the esophagus.
It usually happens from having GERD over a long period of time. People may have heartburn and chest pain, or no symptoms at all. Barrett’s esophagus is treated with medicine and sometimes surgery.
Swallowing problems also are known as dysphagia. Swallowing problems often are related to problems with the esophagus.
Swallowing problems most often affect infants, seniors, and people with neurological disorders.
Cancers of the esophagus often are linked to cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol use, or obesity.
There may be no symptoms early on. When symptoms develop they can include swallowing problems, weight loss, chest pressure, or worsening heartburn.
Hernias of the diaphragm also are can be called congenital diaphragmatic hernias (CDH). They are a birth defect.
There is an opening in the diaphragm that lets some other organs move into the chest area. The lungs are not able to fully develop. In some cases, there may be adult-onset of diaphragmatic hernia due to injury.
Obstruction or blockage in the esophagus usually is from injury or tumor growth.
Food and foreign objects also can block the esophagus. The backflow of stomach acid from GERD also may damage the esophagus. These conditions cause the esophagus to narrow, and it may be hard to swallow food. Patients undergo an endoscopy to diagnose a blockage.
The Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center has an Aerodigestive Clinic for Children that treats complex problems affecting the airway, lung function and the GI tract.
Our youngest patients often can get care close to home. We have pediatric gastroenterologists who see patients in doctor’s offices in Oakland and Caribou.