What Is Acid Reflux Disease?

Acid reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disorder that occurs when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. The esophagus is the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach. GERD can cause symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, and regurgitation (acid backing up into the mouth).

GERD is caused by a weakened or relaxed lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The LES is a muscle that acts as a valve between the esophagus and the stomach. When the LES is weak or relaxed, it allows stomach acid to back up into the esophagus.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to GERD, including:

  • Eating large meals
  • Lying down too soon after eating
  • Eating certain foods, such as fatty, spicy, or acidic foods
  • Drinking caffeine or alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Pregnancy
  • Hiatal hernia (a condition in which the upper part of the stomach pushes through the diaphragm and into the chest)

GERD can be treated with lifestyle changes, medications, or surgery. Lifestyle changes that can help to manage GERD include:

  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals
  • Avoiding eating before bed
  • Avoiding trigger foods and drinks
  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking

If lifestyle changes are not enough to control GERD, medications can be prescribed. Medications that are used to treat GERD include:

  • Antacids, which neutralize stomach acid
  • H2 blockers, which reduce stomach acid production
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which block acid production for longer periods of time

If medications are not effective, surgery may be an option. Surgery for GERD involves tightening the LES or creating a new valve between the esophagus and the stomach.

If you have symptoms of GERD, it is important to see a doctor. GERD can lead to serious complications, such as esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), Barrett’s esophagus (a precancerous condition), and esophageal cancer.

If you have any questions or concerns about GERD, be sure to talk to your doctor.