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Alternative Names Return to topPeptic esophagitis; Reflux esophagitis; GERD; Heartburn - chronic
Definition Return to top
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which food or liquid travels backwards from the stomach to the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.
Causes Return to top
Gastroesophageal reflux is a common condition that often occurs without symptoms after meals. In some people, the reflux is related to a problem with the lower esophageal sphincter, a band of muscle fibers that usually closes off the esophagus from the stomach. If this sphincter doesn't close properly, food and liquid can move backward into the esophagus and may cause the symptoms.
The risk factors for reflux include hiatal hernia (a condition in which part of the stomach moves above the diaphragm, which is the muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities), pregnancy, and scleroderma.
A number of studies suggest that obesity contributes to gastroesophageal reflux. For instance, the Nurses Health Study found that being overweight or obese significantly increased reflux symptoms in women. (Women who lost weight in the study, meanwhile, had fewer symptoms.)
Heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux can be brought on or worsened by pregnancy and by many different medications. Such drugs include:
If you suspect that one of your medications may be causing heartburn, talk to your doctor. Never change or stop medication you take regularly without talking to your doctor.
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to topA number of tests may help diagnose reflux or identify complications:
Treatment Return to top
General measures include:
Medications that alleviate symptoms include:
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The majority of people respond to nonsurgical measures, with lifestyle changes and medications. However, many patients need to continue to take drugs to control their symptoms.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider if symptoms worsen or do not improve with lifestyle changes or medication.
Also call for any of the following symptoms:
Prevention Return to top
References Return to top
Wang, KK, Sampliner, R E. Updated guidelines 2008 for the diagnosis, surveillance and therapy of Barrett's esophagus. Am J Gastroenterol. 2008;103(3):788-97.
Khan, M, Santana, J, Donnellan, C, Preston, C, Moayyedi, P. Medical treatments in the short term management of reflux oesophagitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev(2). 2007;CD003244.
Wilson, J F. In the clinic. Gastroesophageal reflux disease. Ann Intern Med. 2008;149(3): ITC2-1-15; quiz ITC2-16Update Date: 9/7/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.