Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) is a common condition, where acid from the stomach leaks up into the oesophagus (gullet). Certain conditions make a person susceptible to GERD. For example, GERD can be a serious problem during pregnancy The elevated hormone levels of pregnancy probably cause reflux by lowering the pressure in the lower esophageal sphincter (see below). At the same time, the growing fetus increases the pressure in the abdomen. Both of these effects would be expected to increase reflux. Also, patients with diseases that weaken the esophageal muscles, such as scleroderma or mixed connective tissue diseases, are more prone to develop GERD.
Esophageal motility testing determines how well the muscles of the esophagus are working. For motility testing, a thin tube (catheter) is passed through a nostril, down the back of the throat, and into the esophagus. On the part of the catheter that is inside the esophagus are sensors that sense pressure. A pressure is generated within the esophagus that is detected by the sensors on the catheter when the muscle of the esophagus contracts. The end of the catheter that protrudes from the nostril is attached to a recorder that records the pressure. During the test, the pressure at rest and the relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter are evaluated. The patient then swallows sips of water to evaluate the contractions of the esophagus.
If complications of GERD, such as stricture or Barrett’s esophagus are found, treatment with PPIs also is more appropriate. However, the adequacy of the PPI treatment probably should be evaluated with a 24-hour pH study during treatment with the PPI. (With PPIs, although the amount of acid reflux may be reduced enough to control symptoms, it may still be abnormally why not look here high. Therefore, judging the adequacy of suppression of acid reflux by only the response of symptoms to treatment is not satisfactory.) Strictures may also need to be treated by endoscopic dilatation (widening) of the esophageal narrowing. With Barrett’s esophagus, periodic endoscopic examination should be done to identify pre- malignant changes in the esophagus.
PPIs are used when H2 antagonists do not relieve symptoms adequately or when complications of GERD such as erosions or ulcers, strictures, or Barrett’s esophagus exist. Five different PPIs are approved for the treatment of GERD, including omeprazole (Prilosec, Dexilant), lansoprazole ( Prevacid ), rabeprazole ( Aciphex ), pantoprazole ( Protonix ), and esomeprazole ( Nexium ), and dexlansoprazole (Dexilant). A sixth PPI product consists of a combination of omeprazole and sodium bicarbonate ( Zegerid ). PPIs (except for Zegarid) are best taken an hour before meals. The reason for this timing is that the PPIs work best when the stomach is most actively producing acid, which occurs after meals. If the PPI is taken before the meal, it is at peak levels in the body after the meal when the acid is being made.
There are problems with using pH testing for diagnosing GERD. Despite the fact that normal individuals and patients with GERD can be separated fairly well on the basis of pH studies, the separation is not perfect. Therefore, some patients with GERD will have normal amounts of acid reflux and some patients without GERD will have abnormal amounts of acid reflux. It requires something other than the pH test to confirm the presence of GERD, for example, typical symptoms, response to treatment, or the presence of complications of GERD. GERD also may be confidently diagnosed when episodes of heartburn correlate with acid reflux as shown by acid testing.