Important Info on GERD

The Impact of GERD on the Digestive System

For people with GERD, the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach either opens at the wrong time, or is weak and doesn't completely close off the opening to the stomach. When this happens, stomach juices and food particles can flow back up into the esophagus more frequently than normal.
If stomach juices stay in the esophagus for a long time, or if acid reflux happens often, the natural way the esophagus protects itself from stomach juices may simply be overwhelmed. The lining of the esophagus may become irritated, causing heartburn. Over time, GERD can lead to:
  • Bleeding
  • The formation of ulcers
  • Scarring and narrowing of the esophagus.

Causes of GERD and Risk Factors

The cause or causes of GERD are not known; however, several factors can increase your risk of developing it. These factors are known as GERD risk factors. These same risk factors can also make your symptoms worse. Just because you have these risk factors, however, it does not "guarantee" that you will have GERD -- it just makes it more likely.
Common risk factors for GERD include:
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of tobacco products
  • Dietary factors
  • Certain medications
  • Use of alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Stress.

Symptoms of GERD

The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn. The pain or discomfort caused by heartburn usually starts in the middle of the chest, and can move up through the throat. With GERD, heartburn can be frequent, constant, and/or severe.
Other common GERD symptoms include:
  • Sensation of food stuck in the throat
  • Feeling like you are choking or that your throat is tight
  • Acidic or sour taste in the mouth (acid indigestion)
  • Difficulty or painful swallowing
  • Chest pain.
It is also possible for a person with GERD to have one or several of these other symptoms but not have heartburn.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

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