Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn
What is GERD?
(gastroesophageal reflux disease) is a digestive disorder. It’s caused when gastric acid
from your stomach flows back up into your food pipe (esophagus).
Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD.
What causes GERD?
GERD happens when gastric acid from your stomach backs up into your food pipe (esophagus).
A muscle at the bottom of the esophagus opens to let food in. And it closes to keep food in the stomach. This muscle is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When your LES relaxes too often or for too long, acid backs up into your esophagus. This causes heartburn and may cause damage.
Some lifestyle issues that can cause GERD may include:
- Being overweight
- Eating foods such as citrus, chocolate, and fatty or spicy foods
- Having caffeine
- Having alcohol
- Using aspirin and over-the-counter pain and fever medicines. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen.
Some health problems that may cause heartburn may include:
- Swelling of your stomach lining (gastritis)
- Painful sores (ulcers) on the lining of your stomach or esophagus, or the first part of your small intestine (duodenum)
- An allergic condition in the esophagus (eosinophilic esophagitis)
Who is at risk for GERD?
You may be more at risk for GERD if you:
- Have a
part of your stomach slide up out of the belly cavity next to your esophagus (hiatal
- Have a weak lower esophageal sphincter or LES
- Are obese
- Are pregnant
some medicines, such as aspirin or over-the-counter pain and fever medicines such as
- Smoke or are around secondhand smoke
- Drink alcohol
- Are older
What are the symptoms of GERD?
Heartburn, also called acid indigestion, or acid reflux, is the most common symptom of
GERD. Heartburn is a burning chest pain that starts behind your breastbone and moves up
to your neck and throat. It can last as long as 2 hours. It often feels worse after you
eat. Lying down or bending over can also cause heartburn. Another common symptom of GERD
is bringing swallowed food up again to the mouth (regurgitation). Some people can have
Heartburn is not a GERD symptom for most children younger than 12 years old, and for
some adults. They may have a dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing
person’s symptoms may vary. GERD symptoms may seem like other health problems. Always
see your healthcare provider to be sure.
How is GERD diagnosed?
see if you have GERD, your healthcare provider will give you a physical exam and ask
about your past health. Some people with typical symptoms may be treated without more
tests for GERD may include:
- Upper GI (gastrointestinal) series, also called a barium swallow. This test looks at the organs of the top part of your digestive system. It checks your food pipe (esophagus), stomach, and the first part of your small intestine (duodenum). You will swallow a metallic fluid called barium. Barium coats the organs so that they can be seen on an X-ray.
endoscopy or EGD (esophagogastroduodenoscopy). This test looks at the lining
or inside of your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. This test uses a thin, lighted
tube (endoscope). The tube has a camera at one end. The tube is put into your mouth
and throat. Then it goes into your esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. Your healthcare
provider can see the inside of these organs. He or she can also take a small tissue
sample (biopsy) if needed.
test. This test helps to see if your symptoms are caused by acid in your
esophagus. The test is done by dripping a mild acid through a tube placed in your
- Esophageal manometry. This test checks the strength of your esophagus muscles. It can see if you have any problems with backward flow of fluid (reflux) or swallowing. A small tube is put into your nostril, then down your throat and into your esophagus. The tube checks how much pressure your esophageal muscles make when they are at rest.
monitoring. This test checks the pH (acid level) in your esophagus. A thin,
plastic tube is placed into your nostril, down your throat, and into your esophagus.
The tube has a sensor that measures pH level. The other end of the tube outside your
body is attached to a small monitor that records your pH levels for 24 to 48 hours.
During this time you can go home and do your normal activities. You will need to keep
a diary of any symptoms you feel, and also of the food you eat. Your pH readings are
checked and compared to your activity for that time period.
Impedance testing. This test is able
to see reflux of acid, plus nonacid liquid and air. It is combined with pH