Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disorder that results from food and stomach acid backing up into the esophagus from the stomach.
GERD is different from gastroesophageal reflux (GER). GER is a common disorder seen in infants, which causes them to spit up. Most infants outgrow this within 12 months. If symptoms do not improve by 18 to 24 months, your infant may have GERD.
GERD can cause serious health issues. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Food and acid back up into the esophagus from the stomach.
Certain medications (eg, theophylline, dexamethasone)
Exposure to tobacco smoke
If your baby experiences any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to GERD. Remember GER is very common in the first year of life. If GER symptoms worsen or don’t improve by 18 months, ask the doctor to re-evaluate your infant.
These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. If your infant has any of these, tell the doctor:
or blue spells (called cyanosis), when not enough blood gets to the lungs
Cough or wheezing
Your doctor will ask about your baby’s symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Your baby may need to see a pediatric gastroenterologist, a doctor who specializes in gastrointestinal diseases.
Making changes to your baby's diet and sleep positions, as well as not exposing him to second-hand smoke, can improve symptoms.
In most cases, treatment starts with making lifestyle changes. If your infant's GERD doesn't improve, the doctor may recommend medication, such as:
Histamine-2 receptor drugs—to decrease acid production (eg, Pepcid, Axid, Zantac)
Proton pump inhibitors—to heal the esophagus lining and relieve symptoms (eg, Prilosec, Prevacid, Protonix, Nexium)
In severe cases, the doctor may recommend surgery. The most common treatment is called
. During this procedure, the surgeon wraps part of the stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter. This makes the sphincter stronger and prevents stomach acid from backing up into the esophagus.
While the cause of GERD is largely unknown, you can take steps to control the condition in your infant by:
Pediatric GE reflux clinical practice guidelines.
J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr.
*¹1/6/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
: Orenstein SR, McGowan JD. Efficacy of conservative therapy as taught in the primary care setting for symptoms suggesting infant gastroesophageal reflux.
2008;152:310-314. Epub 2007 Nov 7.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a