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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Symptoms and Causes

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that is caused by gastric acid flowing from the stomach into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and esophagus, and reflux means to flow back or return. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is the return of acidic stomach juices, or food and fluids, back up into the esophagus.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Symptoms

Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, is the most common gastroesophageal reflux disease symptom. Heartburn is described as a burning chest pain that begins behind the breastbone and moves upward to the neck and throat. It can last as long as two hours and is often worse after eating. Lying down or bending over can also result in heartburn.

Most children younger than 12 years of age, and some adults diagnosed with GERD will experience a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing, instead of heartburn. Heartburn pain is less likely to be associated with physical activity.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Causes

GERD is believed to be the result of a condition called hiatal hernia, which affects the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The typical cause of heartburn is when acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus. The LES, a muscle located at the bottom of the esophagus, opens to let food in and closes to keep it in the stomach. When this muscle relaxes too often or for too long, acid refluxes back into the esophagus and causes
heartburn.

Other lifestyle contributors to GERD may include the following:

  • Being overweight
  • Overeating
  • Consuming certain foods, such as citrus, chocolate, and fatty and spicy foods
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen

Other medical causes of heartburn, or GERD, may include the following:

  • Gastritis – an inflammation of the stomach lining
  • Ulcer disease