What Is GERD?

what is GERD, gerd symptoms

If you're a living, breathing human being then you've suffered from acid reflux at some point in your life, whether you knew it or not. Reflux is a normal part of life. In fact, the average American refluxes several times a day and doesn't even know that it's happening. But when reflux begins to occur at an abnormal frequency that it becomes a larger issue and can potentially be diagnosed as GERD. So, what is GERD? 

What is this digestive disease?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive disease that causes stomach acid to flow back into the food pipe or esophagus, resulting in frequent and rather uncomfortable bouts of reflux. This irritates the lining of the esophagus, causing heartburn and a slight burning sensation. When this happens more than twice a week on a consistent basis, patients may be diagnosed with GERD, which currently affects about 20 percent of men and women.

The various symptoms that you should look for are heart burn, a sour taste in the mouth, difficulty with swallowing, hoarseness or sore throat, dry cough, acid reflux, and the feeling of a lump in the throat. Make an appointment with your doctor if you experience these symptoms often. 

Most people think that GERD is caused by acid reflux, but that's not actually the case. It is a disease where patients experience acid reflux as one of the main symptoms of the disease. Acid reflux occurs when bile or stomach acid flows back into the esophagus. When you chew food and swallow, the esophagus muscle called the sphincter relaxes and allows food and drink to enter the stomach. Then it closes. If the muscles is too weak, this allows stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus. Patients with GERD have weakened lower esophageal sphincters, which causes the frequent acid reflux that they experience. 


This condition can wear out the lining of the esophagus, causing bleeding and narrowing of the food tube. Conditions that contribute to your risk of developing Gastroesophageal reflux disease are obesity, pregnancy, dry mouth, asthma, diabetes, smoking, and connective tissue disorders. Complications result when you do not treat these symptoms promptly.

Narrowing of the esophagus leads to scar tissue and trouble swallowing.  You might develop an ulcer that bleeds, and causes you pain. Gastroesophageal reflux disease also puts you at an increased risk of developing cancer.  Stomach acid sometimes irritates your lungs causing respiratory problems.  When you see the doctor they can perform a number of test to make the diagnoses.

Some of the tests to determine gastroesophageal reflux are an upper respiratory GI endoscopy and biopsy. Two other accurate tests are the esophageal ph. impendence monitoring and esophageal manometry.  They measure acid reflux and movement in the esophagus. After test results are in the doctor can prescribe the right treatment for you. 

Acid reflux can be painful, especially if you suffer from it frequently, and if you're one of the millions of Americans diagnosed with Gastroesophageal reflux disease then it's important to remember that you're not alone. There are tons of treatment options available to help you manage your condition, from lifestyle changes to medication to surgery. It may be a long battle, but it's one you can win!

Written by: Joan Russell