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October 15, 2014



I keep hearing about Gastroesophageal Reflux. What is it?

Gastroesophageal Reflux--often referred to as GERD is a condition in which stomach acid enters in to the lower part of the esophagus.


Why is GERD a problem?

Stomach fluids have an extremely low pH. This means that they are extremely acidic. This is fine when those fluids are confined to the stomach since the stomach lining was made to be able to handle such acidic fluid. However, when those fluids enter in to the esophagus, it can cause symptoms.


What types of symptoms does GERD cause?

Many people have symptoms of heartburn which is a sensation of burning in the chest and throat. Other symptoms may include a brackish or sour taste in the back of the throat and mouth, chest or upper abdominal pain, difficulty swallowing, sore throat, and cough (just to name a few).


Can GERD cause other problems?

Yes. GERD can aggravate other medical conditions such as asthma and problems with the throat and voice box (larynx).


How do you know that you have GERD?

Many patients can be diagnosed by their doctor on the basis of physical exam. Of course, it is sometimes wise to have an endoscopy or upper GI study.


What causes GERD?

There is no one cause of GERD but many factors may contribute to it. These factors include obesity, smoking, certain foods or medications, certain diseases (such as diabetes), variations in the structure of the upper digestive tract. These are just a few of the risk factors for GERD.


Can GERD be treated?

Yes. There are many effective treatments for GERD. These include lifestyle modifications, medications and even endoscopic and surgical procedures. You should talk to your doctor about which of these approaches is best in your situation.


Does GERD have to be treated?

It is not wise to avoid having your GERD evaluated and treated. Though everyone may have symptoms such as these from time to time, if you are having them regularly (twice a week or more), you should be evaluated. Without appropriate medical care, GERD can damage the esophagus. This may be manifested by bleeding, stricture of the esophagus, perforation of the esophagus or a condition called Barrett’s esophagus.


What is Barrett’s esophagus?

This is a condition in which the esophagus is so damaged that its cellular structure has changed. If Barrett’s esophagus is left untreated, it can lead to esophageal cancer.


What type of doctor specializes in GERD?

It is always a good idea to start with your primary care physician but if you and your primary doctor decide that you should see a specialist, you will probably be referred to a Gastroenterologist.


Where can I get more information?

There are many excellent resources for information available. Check out articles from the NIH, the MAYO clinic and from the American Gastroenterological Association. Their website information on GERD is here below:

MAYO clinic

American Gastroenterological Association



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