GERD

obesity

 

What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a more serious, chronic––or long lasting––form of GER. GER that occurs more than twice a week for a few weeks could be GERD, which over time can lead to more serious health problems. Stomach acid may cause changes in the lining of the esophagus – leading to Barrett’s disease. The is pre malignancy and is an increasing cause of cancer of the esophagus. Can also lead to Dysphagia – difficulty swallowing. People with suspected GERD should see a health care provider.

What causes GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease results when the lower esophageal sphincter—the muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach—becomes weak or relaxes when it should not, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus.

Abnormalities in the body such as hiatal hernias may also cause GERD. Hiatal hernias occur when the upper part of the stomach moves up into the chest. The stomach can slip through an opening found in the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle wall that separates the stomach from the chest. Hiatal hernias may cause GERD because of stomach acid flowing back up through the opening; however, most produce no symptoms.

Other factors that can contribute to GERD include

  • obesity
  • pregnancy
  • certain medications, such as asthma medications, calcium channel blockers, and many antihistamines, pain killers, sedatives, and antidepressants
  • smoking, or inhaling secondhand smoke

People of all ages can develop GERD, some for unknown reasons.

What is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract?

The GI tract is a series of hollow organs joined in a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus. The movement of muscles in the GI tract, along with the release of hormones and enzymes, starts the digestion of food. The upper GI tract includes the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine.

Illustration of the digestive tract within an outline of the top half of a human body. Inset shows a cross section of the stomach.
GERD results when the lower esophageal sphincter—the muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and stomach—becomes weak or relaxes when it should not, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus.

What are the symptoms of GERD?

The main symptom of GERD is frequent heartburn, though some adults with GERD do not have heartburn. Other common GERD symptoms include

  • a dry, chronic cough
  • wheezing
  • asthma and recurrent pneumonia
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • a sore throat, hoarseness, or laryngitis—swelling and irritation of the voice box
  • difficulty swallowing or painful swallowing
  • pain in the chest or the upper part of the abdomen
  • dental erosion and bad breath

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases