What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) has been considered as a common condition in which acid from the stomach backs up to the esophagus. The esophagus is an elongated tube of muscle that travels from the mouth up to the stomach.

Common symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease?

  • Acid reflux that leads to an unpleasant taste in the mouth due to stomach acid that backs up into the mouth
  • Heartburn or burning chest pain that occurs after eating
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Difficulty swallowing

GERD occasionally occurs in some individuals but if the symptoms persist, it is typically considered as a condition that requires treatment.

Heartburn or burning chest pain that occurs after eating.

Causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease?

It is believed that GERD is triggered by a combination of factors but the most common is failure of the lower esophageal sphincter. This functions as a valve which opens to allow food to fall into the stomach and then closes to prevent the leakage of acid from the stomach.

The risk factors for GERD include overweight or obesity, being pregnant and eating a high-fat diet.

Diagnosing GERD

The doctor must be able to diagnose and manage GERD by asking about the symptoms. Further testing is only needed if the individual experiences pain or difficulty swallowing or if the symptoms do not seem to improve despite using medications.

The testing involves using an endoscope which is a thin, flexible tube equipped with a camera and light at one end. This is gently lowered down the throat so that any damage due to the acid can be detected. An endoscopy is required if the diagnosis of GERD is doubtful to assess for other possible causes of the symptoms.

Management of GERD

It is important to note that a step-by-step approach is commonly used in managing gastroesophageal reflux disease. It simply means that simple treatments such as diet changes are tried first.

In case these could not improve the symptoms, medications such as proton-pump inhibitors, antacids or H2-receptor antagonists might be recommended. The antacids work by neutralizing the effects of stomach acid while H2-receptor antagonists and proton-pump inhibitors minimize the amount of acid produced by the stomach. In some circumstances, surgery might be needed in case medications could not manage the symptoms of GERD.

Possible complications

A usual complication of GERD is that the stomach acid can trigger irritation and cause inflammation of the lining of the esophagus which is called esophagitis. When it comes to severe cases of esophagitis, it can lead to the formation of ulcers that can trigger pain and cause difficulty swallowing, especially if the tube becomes narrowed.


Many individuals initially respond well to treatment using medications but the symptoms often recur quite quickly usually within days or weeks. Individuals suffering from recurrent GERD might require medications to be taken on a long-term basis.

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