WHAT IS GERD?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disease characterized by chronic acid reflux.

GASTROESOPHAGEAL REFLUX DISEASE

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a digestive disease characterized by chronic acid reflux, which occurs when stomach acid flows back into the esophagus.

GERD is a common condition, affecting 44% of U.S. adults every month and nearly 18% of U.S. adults every week.People of all ages can be affected by GERD, including children.2,3

Man sitting in kitchen grimaces as he gestures toward throat.

SYMPTOMS OF GERD

GERD is typically a very treatable disease, but many people don't know they have it because its symptoms are associated with numerous other conditions.

Common symptoms of GERD include:4,5

  • Chronic heartburn
  • Regurgitation
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Chronic cough, sore throat, and/or hoarseness
  • Sleep disturbances and nighttime symptoms
  • Belching, gas, and bloating
  • Nausea
  • Intolerance of certain foods
  • Sour taste in the back of the mouth

It’s normal to experience reflux symptoms every now and then, especially after a large meal. Acid reflux is considered GERD if symptoms occur at least twice per week or moderate to severe symptoms occur once a week. To know for sure if these are symptoms of GERD, consult a gastroenterologist (GI). A GI can perform diagnostic testing. Reflux testing is the most accurate way to determine if you have GERD.

When diagnosis and treatment are delayed, chronic GERD can increase your risk for serious health complications, including Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer.About 26.5% of GERD patients will eventually develop Barrett’s esophagus.7

Graphic showing that up to 26.5% of those  with chronic GERD may develop Barrett's esophagus.

TRACK YOUR SYMPTOMS

GERD Symptom Tracker (.pdf)
If you suffer from chronic heartburn, acid reflux, or similar symptoms, you may have GERD. Use this resource to track your symptoms. Discuss the results with a gastroenterologist — so together you can take the first step towards treatment.


WHAT CAUSES ACID REFLUX?

There are several possible causes of acid reflux. However, it is most commonly the result of a poorly functioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the valve between the esophagus and stomach.8 The lower esophageal sphincter (LES) valve is designed to open only when you swallow to allow food to pass into your stomach. The valve seals shut to block out stomach contents at all other times. Acid reflux occurs when the LES valve is weakened or doesn’t close properly, allowing stomach acid to rise into the esophagus. 

HEALTHY STOMACH VS. STOMACH WITH GERD

Illustration of a healthy stomach in comparison to a stomach with GERD.
  1. Esophagus
  2. A healthy, closed LES valve keeping food and acid in the stomach 
  3. Stomach
  4. A weakened LES valve allowing stomach acid into the esophagus

Eating a large meal can cause the stomach to stretch out and temporarily weaken the LES valve. Other factors that can weaken the LES valve include:9

  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Consuming particular foods, such as carbonation, spicy foods, or chocolate
  • Hiatal hernia

If you observe that your acid reflux only occurs after large meals or after eating certain foods, start by changing your eating habits. Eliminate trigger foods from your diet, eat smaller meals, and stay upright for two hours after eating. If your symptoms don’t improve, make an appointment with your doctor.

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Information and resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor. Always discuss diagnosis and treatment information including risks with your doctor. Keep in mind that all treatment and outcome results are specific to the individual patient. Results may vary.


1

Shaheen N, Ransohoff DF. Gastroesophageal reflux, Barrett’s esophagus and esophageal cancer. JAMA. 2002;287:1972-81.

2

Okimoto E, Ishimura N, Morito Y, et al. Prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux disease in children, adults, and elderly in the same community. Journal of Gastroenterology & Hepatology. 2015;30(7):1140-1146. doi:10.1111/jgh.12899.  – this is limited to Japan

3

Carroll MW, Jacobson K. Gastroesophageal reflux disease in children and adolescents: when and how to treat. Paediatric Drugs. 2012;14(2):79-89

4

GERD Symptoms: Typical and Atypical. http://www.gerdhelp.com/about-gerd/symptoms/. Accessed on January 4, 2017.

5

What are the symptoms of GER and GERD? https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/symptoms-causes. Accessed on January 4, 2017.

6

Dymedex Market Development Consulting, Strategic Market Assessment, GERD, October 30, 2014. References 1-3, 6-15, 22, 23, 25, and 34 from the full citation list, access at http://www.medtronic.com/giclaims

7

Dymedex Market Development Consulting, GERD Sizing and Segmentation for pH Testing. February 13, 2015.

8

Kahrilas PJ. Clinical management: Refractory heartburn. Gastroenterology. 2003;124:1941-1945.

9

Vaezi M, Zehrai A, Yuksel E, Testing for refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease, ASGE Leading Edge, 2012 Vol 2, No 2, 1-13, American Society Gastroenterology Endoscopy, Page 1.