Conditions InDepth: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder. It is the back-up of acid or other contents from the stomach into the esophagus. The esophagus is a tube that runs from the back of the mouth to the stomach.
Heartburn, a burning feeling behind the breastbone, is the most common symptom of GERD. However, occasional or one-time heartburn does not mean you have GERD. GERD symptoms occur more than 2 times per week for several weeks. The reflux irritates the esophagus, which can cause permanent damage over the course of time.
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
The esophagus and stomach are designed to propel food downward. A ring of muscle, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), is at the far end of the esophagus, closest to the stomach. It relaxes to let food pass into the stomach then closes shut to prevent it from backing up. Normally, the stomach contracts and squeezes to help digest food and move it into the intestines. When the LES does not close properly or relaxes at the wrong time, the movement of the stomach can push acid and other contents back into the esophagus, causing heartburn. This can also happen when you are lying down or bending over.
Stomach acid irritates the esophagus. For some, the irritation may contribute to breathing difficulties, such as wheezing, congestion, or damage to the voice. Over time, the acid wears away the lining of the esophagus and can lead to complications like bleeding, stricture , or inflammation of the esophagus. The damage may also increase the risk of developing Barrett’s esophagus , an abnormal change in the cells in the lower part of the esophagus. Barrett's esophagus increases the risk of esophageal cancer .
- Daus Mahnke, MD
- Reviewed: 06/2016
- Updated: 05/20/2015
Please note, not all procedures included in this resource library are available at Henry Ford Allegiance Health or performed by Henry Ford Allegiance Health physicians.
All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.