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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
      Category : Health Centers > GERD

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Alternate Names : GERD, Heartburn, Reflux Esophagitis

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a condition in which stomach contents splash up into the esophagus. The esophagus is a narrow, muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

What is going on in the body?

The esophagus is connected to the stomach by the esophageal sphincter. This is a muscular ring. Normally, this muscle performs two major functions. It opens to allow food to pass into the stomach. It also closes to keep the stomach contents out of the esophagus.

If this sphincter weakens or relaxes, the contents of the stomach splash back up into the esophagus. This splashing is known as gastroesophageal reflux.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

GERD can be caused by a weak esophageal sphincter that is present at birth or that develops later in life. A hiatal hernia can also cause GERD. Hiatal hernia is a condition in which the stomach pushes up into the diaphragm muscle. When this happens, the esophageal sphincter does not work properly. As a result, the fluid can easily leak back into the esophagus.

Factors that make GERD worse include the following:

  • being overweight or obese
  • being pregnant
  • drinking alcohol or caffeine
  • drinking carbonated beverages or fruit juice
  • eating chocolate or peppermint
  • eating fatty or spicy foods
  • eating large meals
  • lying down or bending over after a meal
  • medications, such as anti-inflammatory medications
  • smoking or using tobacco products


    Next section


    Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Bill Harrison, MD
    Reviewer: Barbara Mallari, RN, BSN, PHN
    Date Reviewed: 08/20/01

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