GERD is short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, which is also abbreviated to GORD in the UK and places where it is spelled gastro-oesophageal reflux disease.
A diagnosis of GERD is made when a person experiences persistent acid reflux that occurs more than twice a week. Acid reflux is a common problem where stomach acid escapes from the stomach and moves up into the esophagus, causing burning pain that is typically felt around the lower chest area.
This page summarizes some of the information about gastroesophageal reflux disease that is covered in more detail on our page about acid reflux in general.
Fast facts on GERD
Here are some key points about GERD. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.
- GERD (or GORD) is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease - a condition involving persistent, regular acid reflux.
- Where acid reflux happens more than twice a week, GERD may be diagnosed.
- Acid reflux can cause symptoms of heartburn and indigestion.
- Stomach acid that washes up into the esophagus can cause dangerous tissue damage.
- GERD may result from a dysfunctional sphincter (valve) at the top of the stomach and bottom of the esophagus.
- Maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking and reducing stress can help lessen the risk of GERD.
- Treating GERD may involve the use of protein pump inhibitors, antacids and other medications, as well as lifestyle changes.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is a condition where stomach acid persistently and regularly flows up into the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms, as well as possible tissue damage. It is not simply a case of occasional indigestion and acid reflux.
The American College of Gastroenterology says that at least 15 million Americans experience heartburn - the symptom of acid reflux - daily.
The esophagus may also be referred to as the food pipe or gullet, and is the cartilaginous tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach.
Learn more about the gastric fluid, the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach, and why reflux is harmful.
What causes acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease?
Maintaining a healthy weight and stopping smoking addresses two risk factors for acid reflux.
Occasional acid reflux is quite common, often occurring as a result of overeating, lying down after eating, or eating particular foods. Recurrent acid reflux diagnosed as gastroesophageal reflux disease typically has other causes and risk factors and can have more serious complications.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease is seen in people of all ages, sometimes for unknown reasons (idiopathic). Often the cause is attributable to a lifestyle factor, but it can also be a result of something that cannot be prevented, such as an anatomical issue.
Go to more detail about the causes of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Signs and symptoms of GERD
Acid reflux usually produces the same main symptom - heartburn.- regardless of whether it is a harmless, isolated episode of the sort most people experience at some point, or the persistent problem of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Heartburn is a discomfort felt behind the breastbone area that takes the form of a burning sensation. It tends to worsen when the person lies down or bends over, and also after eating food.
Deeper information about the signs and symptoms of GERD.
Tests and diagnosis of gastroesophageal reflux disease
Anyone who is experiencing frequent acid reflux symptoms should talk first to their family doctor, who may refer them to a specialist in gut medicine (a gastroenterologist) for further investigation.
More about GERD diagnosis.
Treatment and prevention of GERD
The main treatment option for people who repeatedly experience acid reflux in gastroesophageal reflux disease is a class of drugs known as proton-pump inhibitors.
These drugs decrease the production of stomach acid, while other remedies may counteract the acid with alkali chemicals.
Learn more about PPIs, over-the-counter remedies for acid reflux, and other treatment options.
Lifestyle control of acid reflux
Lifestyle can play a part in the development of acid reflux-related problems, and changes to lifestyle or behavior can prevent or improve symptoms.
More information is on our acid reflux page about prevention through lifestyle.