Overview

This condition is a chronic digestive disease that results in a painful irritation in the esophagus. It occurs when food or liquid escapes the stomach and pushes upward into the esophagus.

Causes

GERD is commonly caused by a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter. This is the muscular band of tissue located between the esophagus and stomach. This sphincter normally opens to allow food to pass into the stomach, then clamps tightly shut. A malfunctioning sphincter can allow the acidic contents of the stomach to escape. This can irritate the lining of the esophagus.

Symptoms

Symptoms of GERD may include heartburn, regurgitation, sore throat, and difficulty swallowing. GERD may cause belching, coughing, wheezing, and hoarseness. These symptoms may become worse after eating, when bending or lying down, and at night.

Treatment

In most cases, GERD can be managed effectively with over-the counter or prescription medications. These can help neutralize or reduce stomach acid, heal the lining of the esophagus, and strengthen the esophageal sphincter. Patients may also benefit from weight loss and by modifying diet or sleep habits. If these are not effective, surgery may be an option.