Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

If you’re experiencing persistent heartburn and digestive trouble on a regular basis, you might be experiencing a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

A condition that affects millions

Heartburn typically is caused by acidic contents of the stomach flowing back up into the esophagus, usually because the muscle at the end of the esophagus isn’t closing properly.

GERD symptoms include heartburn, the taste of stomach acid in the back of your throat, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, and hoarseness. The long-term effects of stomach acids hitting the esophagus may lead to erosion of the tissues and esophageal cancer.

The National Institutes of Health estimates that GERD affects about 20 percent of the U.S. population.

Get it checked now

Early detection of the condition can help reduce the symptoms and the wear and tear on your esophagus.  Your doctor can run several tests to determine if the persistent heartburn symptoms you’re experiencing are caused by GERD.

Based on the findings of your tests, your treatment might include some combination of the following:

Dietary and lifestyle changes

  • Avoiding carbonated beverages and foods and beverages with caffeine
  • Adjusting your sleeping position so that your head is higher than your stomach, to keep stomach acid from flowing toward your head
  • Quitting smoking
  • Using diet and exercise to lose weight

Medical treatment

  • Drugs that focus on reducing the amount of acid produced in your stomach
  • Over-the-counter strong acid blockers such as omeprazole should not be taken more than two weeks unless advised by your doctor

Surgical treatment

  • One commonly used, minimally invasive technique wraps the upper part of the stomach around the esophagus to form a collar-like structure. The collar places pressure on the end of the esophagus and prevents fluids from backing up into it.
  • A new minimally invasive procedure called LINX uses a flexible ring of small titanium magnets to reinforce the collar where the esophagus meets the stomach.

One more thought about addressing your pain

Sometimes GERD symptoms can include chest pain. It is important for your doctor to determine whether the pain you’re feeling in your chest is due to GERD or a sign of a heart condition.

Last reviewed: 
June 2017
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