Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a common condition in which stomach contents travel back up into the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach.
At the lower end of the esophagus there is a muscular ring called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES should remain tightly closed except to allow food to pass normally into the stomach. Inappropriate relaxation of the LES allows stomach contents, including acid, to flow back into the esophagus.
Chronic acid reflux can cause complications such as esophageal ulceration, bleeding, stricture (narrowing of the esophagus) formation, and a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus.
Typical symptoms of GERD include heartburn and regurgitation.
More atypical symptoms include chest pain, cough, sore throat and laryngitis.
GERD can usually be diagnosed on the basis of a patient’s symptoms.
Additional testing with barium x-rays, endoscopy or esophageal pH monitoring may be necessary in some cases to confirm the diagnosis or to evaluate and treat complications.
Certain lifestyle choices and foods can exacerbate reflux symptoms, so we recommend limiting these behaviors.
Exacerbating factors include spicy foods, acidic foods, chocolate, peppermint, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, overeating, and obesity.
Treatment is aimed at reducing reflux of acidic gastric material. This can usually be achieved through lifestyle modification, dietary changes, and medications to neutralize or inhibit the production of stomach acid.