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:
In addition to acid reflux at night, you might also manifest:
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:
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.
The following conditions can make you more susceptible to GERD:
The following factors can make acid reflux worse:
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