What is gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD

GERD is an abbreviation for gastroesophageal reflux disease. GERD has several manifestations. Classically, it can be a sensation of warmth or burning in the chest, which can be a mild discomfort to frank pain. You might regurgitate bitter material or burp it up into your mouth. These symptoms are caused by acidic stomach material refluxing from the stomach into the esophagus, which is the food pipe (Figure 1).

Reflux can occur during the day or at night while you're asleep. Several factors prevent reflux, among them is gravity and the fact that when you are upright,

Figure 1 Reflux.

the esophagus is above the stomach. GERD symptoms increase particularly at bedtime because the effects and benefits of gravity are removed when you lie down. Generally, nocturnal or nighttime symptoms are more severe; in addition to burning chest discomfort, they can include excessive drooling, coughing, and choking. These symptoms can increase the risks of complications of chronic GERD that may affect the esophagus, lungs, or airways.

Reflux is affected by weight, diet, medications, and lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption. A patient with GERD can change or modify many of these factors to improve symptoms. If conservative measures fail, then many medications are available for treatment of GERD. The spectrum of medications spans from over-the-counter antacids used to treat infrequent and episodic reflux, to powerful prescription drugs that you take several times a day to treat severe GERD and its complications.

Patients and doctors may use several names for gas-troesophageal reflux disease interchangeably. Heartburn, acid reflux, and regurgitation are all symptoms of GERD. These symptoms are discussed further throughout this book and can be referenced in specific questions.

Reflux is weight, diet, medications, and lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol consumption.

Richard's comment:

My acid reflux symptoms are most severe while sleeping. I wake up from a sound sleep with the sensation that I am drowning. The bitter taste stays with me for the rest of the night.

Although heartburn, a symptom of reflux, often feels like burning and can be very similar to the pain or discomfort caused by heart problems or heart attacks, heartburn does not affect the heart, as its name suggests.

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