Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus.
Many people experience acid reflux from time to time. GERD is mild acid reflux that occurs at least twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs at least once a week.
Most people can manage the discomfort of GERD with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. But some people with GERD may need stronger medications or surgery to ease symptoms.
Common signs and symptoms of GERD include:
If you have nighttime acid reflux, you might also experience:
Seek immediate medical care if you have chest pain, especially if you also have shortness of breath, or jaw or arm pain. These may be signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you:
GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux.
When you swallow, a circular band of muscle around the bottom of your esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. Then the sphincter closes again.
If the sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus. This constant backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus, often causing it to become inflamed.
Your doctor might be able to diagnose GERD based on a physical examination and history of your signs and symptoms.
To confirm a diagnosis of GERD, or to check for complications, your doctor might recommend:
Over time, chronic inflammation in your esophagus can cause:
No alternative medicine therapies have been proved to treat GERD or reverse damage to the esophagus. Some complementary and alternative therapies may provide some relief, when combined with your doctor's care.
Talk to your doctor about what alternative GERD treatments may be safe for you. The options might include:
Lifestyle changes may help reduce the frequency of acid reflux. Try to:
Conditions that can increase your risk of GERD include:
Factors that can aggravate acid reflux include: