GERD is a common medical condition encountered in daily clinical practice. Patients usually complain of symptoms such as heartburn, regurgitation or acid brash though some atypical symptoms (chest pain, bloating, coughing or sore throat) may be encountered as well. An estimated 10-20% of the population in Singapore may experience GERD during their lifetime. Chronic GERD is associated with lower quality of life and interferes with activities of daily living, work and even sleep.
The underlying predisposing factors for GERD are often multifactorial. Underlying impairment of physiologic anti-reflux mechanism (e.g. inappropriate lower esophageal spinchter (LOS) relaxation, impaired esophageal peristalsis, excess gastric acid secretion) often co-exist with predisposing factors (raised BMI, alcohol, smoking, dietary factors, pregnancy) resulting in GERD symptoms.
Most GERD cases can be managed by primary care doctors (GPs, family doctors). A combination of lifestyle changes (dietary modifications, weight reduction etc) with or without medications (over the counter antacids, proton pump inhibitors) are usually adequate to manage the condition.
The presence of alarm symptoms (such as unexplained weight loss, pain or difficulty in swallowing, low blood count (anaemia) etc) should alert your primary GERD / reflux doctor to refer you to a specialist (Gastroenterologist). Depending on subsequent evaluation, further tests such as upper GI endoscopy or imaging (ultrasound abdomen, CT abdomen) may be offered before subsequent treatment.
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