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