Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Last Updated: May 29, 2020

Definition - What does Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) mean?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder in which the opening separating the stomach from the esophagus, the lower esophageal spincter (LES), fails to close properly. When the LES fails to close, acids and other stomach contents can escape and travel up the esophagus. This backflow of stomach acid is called reflux. The leaked acids from the stomach are corrosive to the tissue of the esophagus, causing pain.

WorkplaceTesting explains Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of several digestive disorders affecting the throat or esophagus. Some individuals experience temporary reflux or pain. Sometime reflux suffers feel a burning sensation commonly called heartburn. Reflux can also cause coughing or throat irritation.

When a person experiences repeated episodes of reflux, he or she may be diagnosed with GERD. To diagnose GERD, a physician may order a test called an ambulatory acid probe that measures the varying levels of acid in the person's esophagus over a 24-hour period. An X-ray known as an upper GI may also be used to diagnose GERD. A physician can also visibly inspect the esophagus and collect tissue samples using endoscopy.

Individuals with asthma are also susceptible to GERD because their asthma symptoms may cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax. Additionally, some medications, including those for asthma, may cause reflux. Smoking, caffeine, obesity, pregnancy, and hiatal hernias can all contribute to the development of reflux and GERD.

Treatment for GERD may include medication, diet and lifestyle changes, and in some instances, surgery. Often the type of treatment prescribed will depend on the underlying cause of the condition and its severity.

When the condition persists, GERD can cause serious complications. In some cases, a patient suffering from GERD can develop an esophageal ulcer. Long term GERD can also cause the structure of the esophagus to change. Chronic reflux is also one of the risk factors for developing esophageal cancer.

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