Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: What Is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease is a chronic digestive disorder affecting the lower esophageal sphincter (that ring of muscle between your esophagus and your stomach). The LES is a muscle that acts as a valve between the stomach and the esophagus. When the LES functions correctly it opens to allow food and liquid to pass into the stomach, then closes to create a barrier between the esophagus and stomach acid. A weak LES will not close correctly and will allow stomach acid to wash back into the esophagus, often causing injury to the lining of the esophagus and symptoms such as heartburn, chest pain, regurgitation, sore throat, and cough.
In patients with GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter is either weaker, shorter, or has moved into a location that is other than normal, causing it to relax inappropriately. When it does, this can allow acid, bile, or even undigested food to reflux back up into the esophagus, which results in painful symptoms.
Symptoms Of GERD
People experience symptoms of acid reflux in a variety of ways. The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn. Other symptoms may include:
- Chest pain
- Clearing of the throat
- Tooth enamel decay
- Sleep disruption
When left untreated, GERD (or acid reflux) can lead to potentially serious complications, including:
- Esophagitis (Inflammation, irritation, or swelling of the esophagus)
- Stricture (Narrowing of the esophagus)
- Barrett’s Esophagus (Pre-cancerous changes to the esophagus)
- Esophageal Cancer
- Pulmonary Fibrosis
Treatment For GERD
There are a number of options available for the treatment of GERD. Each case is different, and based on the severity of your GERD your doctor may suggest a combination of the following:
• Lifestyle Changes
• Anti-reflux surgery: Transoral Incisionless Fundoplication
• Anti-reflux surgery: LINX Reflux Management System
• Anti-reflux surgery: Lap Nissen Fundoplication
We cover each of these treatment options in depth on our GERD Treatment page.