Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) refers to the back flow of stomach contents into the esophagus (the swallowing tube that connects the throat with the stomach). GERD is a diagnosis that is generally made by gastroenterologists, and the most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, chest pain after eating, particularly after a greasy or heavy meal. Heartburn is a very common symptom, and about one-third of Americans have it. GERD is also usually characterized by esophageal erosions, that is tissue damage due to the contact of the gastric contents with the esophageal lining. The damage usually occurs while people sleep at night.
While GERD is the most common and popular diagnosis when referring to “reflux,” the backflow of stomach contents, laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), the backflow of stomach contents into the throat (pharynx and the larynx), is equally common. Its manifestations, however, are quite different than GERD. Generally, people with GERD are seen by gastroenterologists, but in the case of the Voice Institute of New York, Dr. Koufman is trained in the management of all types of reflux disease. GERD requires diagnostic testing including pH testing, esophageal manometry, and esophageal examination called “endoscopy” or “esophagoscopy.”
GERD is a potentially dangerous disease that can be likened in many ways to high blood pressure; untreated it is dangerous, but treated it is not. The reason why GERD can be dangerous is because esophageal cancer related to reflux is the fastest growing cancer in the United States, particularly in white males over age 50.
People who have symptoms of GERD ought to have the esophagus examined. At the Voice Institute of New York, Dr. Koufman performs transnasal esophagoscopy (TNE). The advantage of this examination technique is that the patient does not have to be put out. As a consequence, he or she can go back to work or home immediately following the procedure. When people who had had traditional endoscopy and TNE asked their preference, 90% prefer the TNE method.