Conditions InDepth: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder. With GERD, stomach acid or other stomach contents frequently back up into the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that runs from the back of the mouth to the stomach. The stomach acid irritates the esophagus and can create permanent damage over time. The occasional back up of fluids is common and often called acid reflux or heartburn. GERD is the frequent occurrence of these symptoms, more than twice per week over several weeks. GERD will also have evidence of damage from the acid reflux.
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
CausesA ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) manages the flow of food from the esophagus to the stomach. The LES relaxes to let food pass into the stomach then closes shut to help keep contents in the stomach. Sometimes the LES does not close properly or relaxes at inappropriate moments. This allows stomach acid and other contents to frequently pass back into the esophagus.The stomach acid irritates the esophagus. It may contribute to breathing difficulties such as wheezing or congestion and damage to the voice. Overtime this irritation wears away the lining of the esophagus and can lead to complications such as bleeding, narrowing, or inflammation of the esophagus. The damage may also increase the risk of developing Barrett's esophagus.What are the risk factors for GERD/heartburn?What are the symptoms of GERD/heartburn?How is GERD/heartburn diagnosed?What are the treatments for GERD/heartburn?Are there screening tests for GERD/heartburn?How can I reduce my risk of GERD/heartburn?What questions should I ask my doctor?Where can I get more information about GERD/heartburn?
Definition and facts for gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). NationalInstitute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseaseswebsite. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/ger-and-gerd-in-adults/Pages/definition-facts.aspx. Accessed February 26, 2015.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 19, 2015. Accessed February 26, 2015.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The Merck Manual Professional Edition. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal%5Fdisorders/esophageal%5Fand%5Fswallowing%5Fdisorders/gastroesophageal%5Freflux%5Fdisease%5Fgerd.html. Updated May 2014. Accessed February 26, 2015.
Katz PO, Gerson LB, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):302-328.
Mitre MC, Katzka DA. Pathophysiology of GERD: Lower esophageal sphincter defects. GERD in the 21st Century, Series 5. Practical Gastro website. Available at: http://www.practicalgastro.com/pdf/May04/MitreArticle.pdf. Published May 2004. Accessed February 26, 2015.
Understanding heartburn and reflux disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/heartburn-gerd. Accessed February 26, 2015.
- Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 03/2014
- Update Date: 02/26/2015
Many medical groups felt that early exposure to certain foods like peanuts increased a child's risk of developing food allergies. However, newer research including this trial suggest that early exposure may actually decrease the risk of developing food allergies.
Breastfeeding May Decrease the Risk of Childhood Obesity
Tonsillectomy May Reduce Number of Sore Throat Days in Children
Research Review Finds Little Support for Nearly Half of Medical Talk Show Recommendations