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Gastroesophageal reflux disease: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is when food or liquid travels from the stomach back up into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This partially digested material is usually acidic and can irritate the esophagus, often causing heartburn and other symptoms.

Alternative Names: Peptic esophagitis; Reflux esophagitis; GERD; heartburn - chronic

Causes, incidence, and risk factors: Gastroesophageal reflux is a common condition that often occurs without symptoms after meals. In some people, the reflux is related to a problem with the lower esophageal sphincter, a band of muscle fibers that usually closes off the esophagus from the stomach. If this sphincter doesn't close properly, food and liquid can move backward into the esophagus and may cause the symptoms.

Some conditions are associated with incompetent esophageal sphincters, including pregnancy, hiatal hernia, obesity, recurrent or persistent vomiting and nasogastric tubes. Risk factors for reflux include previous esophageal surgery or esophageal stricture.

Symptoms:

  • Heartburn
    • Involves a burning pain in the chest (under the breastbone)
    • Increased by bending, stooping, lying down, or eating
    • Relieved by milk or antacids
    • More frequent or worse at night
  • Belching
  • Regurgitation of food
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Vomiting blood
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cough or wheezing

heartburn

Heartburn is a condition where the acidic stomach contents back up into the esophagus causing pain in the chest area. This reflux usually occurs because the sphincter muscle between the esophagus and stomach is weakened. Standing or sitting after a meal can help reduce the reflux which causes heartburn. Continuous irritation of the esophagus lining as in gastroesophageal reflux disease is a risk factor for the development of adenocarcinoma.

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