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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the stomach contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.


Causes

When you eat, food passes from the throat to the stomach through the esophagus (also called the food pipe or swallowing tube). Once food is in the stomach, a ring of muscle fibers prevents food from moving backward into the esophagus. These muscle fibers are called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES.


If this sphincter muscle doesn't close well, food, liquid, and stomach acid can leak back into the esophagus. This is called reflux or gastroesophageal reflux. Reflux may cause symptoms, or it can even damage the esophagus.


Symptoms

More common symptoms are:

  • Feeling that food is stuck behind the breastbone
  • Heartburn or a burning pain in the chest (under the breastbone)
  • Increased by bending, stooping, lying down, or eating
  • More likely or worse at night
  • Relieved by antacids
  • Nausea after eating

Less common symptoms are:

  • Bringing food back up (regurgitation)
  • Cough or wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hiccups
  • Hoarseness or change in voice
  • Sore throat

Treatment

Anti-reflux operations (fundoplication and others) may be an option for patients whose symptoms do not go away with lifestyle changes and drugs. Heartburn and other symptoms should improve after surgery, but you may still need to take drugs for your heartburn.


There are also new therapies for reflux that can be performed through an endoscope (a flexible tube passed through the mouth into the stomach).


Prognosis

Anti-reflux surgery is a safe operation. Heartburn and other symptoms should improve after surgery. But some people still need to take drugs for heartburn after surgery.


Some people will need another surgery in the future to treat new reflux symptoms or swallowing problems. This may happen if the stomach was wrapped around the esophagus too tightly, the wrap loosens, or a new hiatal hernia develops.


For more information on GERD click here