GERD and Scleroderma

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Scleroderma, a disease causing thickening and hardening of the skin, can also affect the internal organs, including those of the gastrointestinal tract. This autoimmune disease is characterized by the overproduction of collagen. The deposition of excess collagen causes the hardening of skin and other organs.

When too much collagen is deposited in the esophagus, the passageway from the throat to the stomach, it interferes with the functioning of the valve between the stomach and the esophagus. This allows stomach acids to escape upward and prevents food from moving properly downward. The result is the development of GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease. Accompanying heartburn symptoms are caused by stomach acid entering the esophagus, creating a painful burning sensation.

Symptoms of GERD are frequently quite severe in patients with scleroderma. Damage can occur to the esophagus if left untreated. Medicines are available that stop the escape of stomach acids into the esophagus. Due to the thickening and hardening of the muscles in the esophagus caused by scleroderma, the normal contractions that move food downward are impaired. Medicine can help correct this, sending the food quickly down to the stomach.

Patients with scleroderma are usually under the care of a rheumatologist but may need to see other medical professionals that specialize in the organs affected by the collagen deposits. A gastroenterologist should be seen for treatment of GERD.

Patients suffering from scleroderma and GERD in the Albany, Georgia, area can take simple actions that help alleviate some of the symptoms of GERD. Eating small meals prevents an overfull stomach and acid reflux. Dietary choices can ease symptoms. Avoiding fatty and spicy foods, culprits in aggravating GERD, helps. Let gravity work for you by remaining upright after eating and sleeping in a bed with the head elevated.

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