Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)


Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the esophagus. This acid reflux can irritate the lining of the esophagus, causing discomfort. While occasional acid reflux is common, repeated occurrences over time can lead to GERD.

The lower esophageal sphincter, a valve at the end of the esophagus, is responsible for preventing acid backwash into the throat and mouth. However, in the case of GERD, this valve does not close properly, allowing acid to flow back up into the esophagus, resulting in a sour taste.

Though acid reflux and heartburn are normal occurrences for many people, if the symptoms occur more than twice a week for several weeks, and if taking heartburn medications and antacids do not provide long-term relief, it is essential to seek medical attention. If left untreated, GERD can lead to more serious health issues.


Typical GERD warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Dysphagia or swallowing difficulty
  • A feeling of having a lump in your throat
  • Heartburn, a burning sensation in your chest that typically occurs after eating and may be worse at night or while you’re lying down. While acid reflux can occur at any time, it often intensifies after eating. Individuals experiencing heartburn may find it challenging to fall asleep, particularly when lying down or reclining, as this can worsen their symptoms.
  • Regurgitation of meals or acidic liquids
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain

In addition to acid reflux at night, you might also manifest:

  • Laryngitis or vocal cords inflammation
  • Asthma flare-ups or new ones
  • Coughing

In case of chest discomfort, it is crucial to seek emergency medical attention immediately, especially if you experience breathing difficulties, arm or jaw pain, or shortness of breath. These symptoms could indicate a heart attack and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Schedule a visit with your physician if you:

  • Suffer from GERD symptoms frequently or severely.
  • More than twice a week, take over-the-counter drugs for heartburn.


Acid reflux occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter, which is responsible for closing tightly after food enters your stomach, weakens or relaxes at inappropriate times. As a result, the stomach contents rise back up into the esophagus, causing irritation and inflammation of the lining of the esophagus.

GERD, on the other hand, is caused by frequent acid reflux or reflux of nonacidic content from the stomach. When the circular band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) fails to relax properly or weakens, stomach acid can flow back into the esophagus, leading to persistent irritation and inflammation.

Risk factors

The following conditions can make you more susceptible to GERD:

  • Hiatus hernia, which causes the top of the stomach to bulge up above the diaphragm.
  • Conditions affecting the connective tissue, such scleroderma.
  • Slow emptying of the stomach
  • Being overweight
  • Pregnancy

The following factors can make acid reflux worse:

  • Consuming particular foods, or triggers, including fried or fatty foods.
  • Consuming specific liquids, such as alcohol or coffee
  • Eating heavy meals or late-night meals
  • Using specific drugs, like aspirin
  • Smoking