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What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD is the result of a weak muscle within the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts as a reflux barrier within the body. When functioning correctly, the barrier acts as a one-way valve that allows food to flow into the stomach and prevents stomach contents from flowing back up into the esophagus. However, people who experience GERD have a barrier that does not function properly, allowing acid and bile to flow back into the esophagus.

For some people, GERD poses a serious medical problem. If you have heartburn, nausea and other symptoms of GERD or acid reflux, contact us today at 575-532-4373 to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.

Severe cases of GERD can lead to esophagitis (inflammation of the esophagus), Barrett’s esophagus (a serious complication of GERD that changes the normal tissue lining the esophagus to tissue that resembles the lining of the intestine and can lead to cancer), strictures (a narrowing or tightening of the esophagus that can cause difficulty swallowing), and esophageal cancer.

Risk factors of GERD may be caused by anything that causes extra pressure on the stomach and diaphragm, such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Performing jobs that require stooping, bending or heavy lifting
  • Being 40 years old or older
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Diet
  • Certain lifestyle choices, including a diet of alcohol, citrus, caffeinated beverages, tomato-based foods, chocolate, spicy food, and peppermint

Do You Have GERD?

If you answer “yes” to two or more of the following questions, you may have GERD:

  • Do you experience an uncomfortable feeling behind the breastbone that seems to be moving upward from the stomach?
  • Do you have a burning sensation in the back of your throat?
  • Do you experience a bitter acid taste in your mouth?
  • Do you often experience these problems after meals?
  • Do you experience heartburn or acid indigestion two or more times per week?
  • Do you find that antacids only provide temporary relief from your symptoms?
  • Do you take prescription medication to treat heartburn, but still have symptoms?

When Heartburn Can Be a Sign of GERD

Heartburn is a common symptom that affects about 20 percent of Americans. However, it is a key symptom and indicator of GERD, especially if your heartburn:

  • Occurs twice or more a week
  • Affects your sleep
  • Persists and becomes more severe
  • Has occurred regularly for several years

Other Symptoms of GERD

Aside from chronic heartburn, GERD may also manifest in other symptoms, like difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, wheezing, chest pain, a chronic, non-productive dry cough, achalasia (failure of the lower esophageal sphincter to open when swallowing), acid reflux, asthma, dysphagia (difficult or painful swallowing), heartburn, hiatal hernia, indigestion and regurgitation.

About Memorial Heartburn Center

Memorial Heartburn Center provides extraordinary care for patients struggling with heartburn, acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Our experienced Heartburn team has extensive training and performs a range of advanced diagnostic and treatment procedures to help ease patients' symptoms.