GERD (320x240)
credit: Torax Medical, Inc.In people with GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is weak, allowing acid and bile to reflux from the stomach into the esophagus.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic, often progressive disease caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that allows acid and bile to reflux, or flow back, from the stomach into the esophagus.

The LES is a muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach that functions as the body’s natural barrier to reflux. The LES acts like a valve, allowing food and liquid to pass through to the stomach. Normally, the LES resists opening to gastric pressures to prevent reflux (see figure at right). In people with GERD, the LES is weak and allows acid and bile to reflux from the stomach into the esophagus, often causing injury to the lining of the esophagus and symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, and cough.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic, often progressive disease caused by a weak lower esophageal sphincter (LES) that allows acid and bile to reflux, or flow back, from the stomach into the esophagus.

The LES is a muscle at the junction of the esophagus and stomach that functions as the body’s natural barrier to reflux. The LES acts like a valve, allowing food and liquid to pass through to the stomach. Normally, the LES resists opening to gastric pressures to prevent reflux. In people with GERD, the LES is weak and allows acid and bile to reflux from the stomach into the esophagus, often causing injury to the lining of the esophagus and symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, and cough.

Symptoms and Complications

GERD can be debilitating, causing daily pain, leading to poor sleep, affecting food tolerance and limiting daily activities.

Medications for GERD are designed to control or suppress acid production in the stomach. They DO NOT address the cause of GERD and may not prevent reflux.

Approximately 40 percent of GERD sufferers continue to have symptoms while taking medications for GERD.

Signs of GERD

People experience symptoms of GERD in a variety of ways. The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. Other symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Regurgitation

Complications

When left untreated, GERD can lead to potentially serious complications, including:

  • Esophagitis (Inflammation, irritation or swelling of the esophagus)
  • Stricture (Narrowing of the esophagus)
  • Barrett's Esophagus (Pre-cancerous changes to the esophagus)