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GERD

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is caused by a damaged lower esophageal sphincter (LES)
  • GERD is often referred to acid reflux
  • Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD but there are many others
  • Medications do not fix the damaged valve; minimally invasive surgical procedures do

About GERD

GERD is defined as a condition caused by the reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus causing troublesome symptoms and complications. GERD is often referred to acid reflux. They describe the same disease.

GERD is caused by a malfunction of a muscular structure called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) located at the end of the swallowing tube (esophagus) at the point where it joins the stomach. Under normal circumstances, the LES functions as a valve allowing food to pass readily into the stomach while not allowing stomach contents to back up or “reflux” upward into the esophagus. When the function of the LES is compromised, it loses its valve function and stomach contents can move the wrong direction up into the esophagus. The lining of the esophagus is sensitive and not meant to withstand exposure stomach juices, including acid. It is easily irritated causing many symptoms, the most common of which is heartburn.

Overeating is the major factor that causes the LES to become damaged. Filling up, or stretching of the stomach allows the LES to be exposed to stomach contents, including acid, which damages the LES. The reason the term acid reflux is used is that when reflux occurs, acid is the component of the stomach juice that causes most of the irritation of the esophagus. There are many other chemicals contained in the refluxing stomach contents, but it is the acid that causes most of the symptoms.

How do I know if I have GERD?

Symptoms

Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. Heartburn is described as a burning sensation in the upper abdomen extending up into the chest under the breastbone. There can also be a pressure sensation associated with it.

Along with heartburn, the other typical symptoms of GERD are regurgitation and swallowing difficulty, termed dysphagia. Regurgitation is the reflux of bitter stomach juice into the back of the throat without warning. This tends to occur at night, with a person wakes up with bitter material in the back of the throat accompanied by a choking sensation. It is quite a miserable experience and is very specific for acid reflux. It can occur during the day as well, even when just bending over. Dysphagia is a symptom that must be evaluated expeditiously. It usually represents some damage to the esophagus from long-standing reflux. However, it can also represent something quite serious such as a narrowing of the esophagus from reflux or even an esophageal cancer.

GERD can also cause other symptoms that we term atypical. These can include chronic cough, sore throat, throat clearing, voice fatigue, worsening of preexisting asthma, dental disease and others. These atypical symptoms can be difficult to recognize as caused by GERD.

The expert testing available through the Heartburn Treatment Center accurately evaluates these symptoms to determine if they are caused by GERD. Once this determination is made, treatment options are offered.

Contact us today to begin your pathway to relief.

Call (682) 242-4373 (GERD).
Or, if you'd like a Heartburn Treatment Center nurse
to contact you, click here.