Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) happens when your stomach contents come back up into your esophagus. Acid reflux and heartburn are common conditions many people experience from time to time. However, if symptoms are chronic (two or more times a week), you may be diagnosed with Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Signs and symptoms of GERD may include:
- A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn/acid indigestion)
- Chest pain*
- Dry cough, hoarseness or sore throat
- Regurgitation of food/liquid (acid reflux)
- Sour taste in the mouth
*Seek immediate medical attention if you have chest pain, especially with other symptoms like arm pain, as these may be signs of heart attack.
GER and GERD happen when your lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes when it shouldn’t, causing stomach contents to rise up into the esophagus (reflux). Things that may cause this include:
- Increased abdominal pressure from being overweight, obese or pregnant
- Certain medicines, including some blood pressure and depression medications
- Dry mouth, which can also be a side effect of some medication
- Smoking, or inhaling secondhand smoke
Constant acid reflux can wear away the esophageal lining, causing complications such as bleeding or esophageal narrowing.
Your Northeast Digestive Health Center doctor may diagnose GERD following a physical exam and reviewing your medical history. Additional tests may be required to confirm or rule out other causes. This may include blood, stool or breath tests. Your doctor may also order an endoscopy to examine your upper digestive system.
You may be able to control GERD by avoiding reflux triggers, like:
- Not consuming food/liquids that cause symptoms, such as spicy foods and alcoholic drinks
- Not overeating
- Not eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
- Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Quitting smoking and avoiding secondhand smoke
- Taking over-the-counter medicines, such as acid reducers
Many people can manage GERD on their own. But some people may need stronger medications, or even surgery. Your gastroenterologist will recommend treatment following determination of potential underlying causes of your reflux symptoms.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH)