Font Size

Acid Reflux (GERD)

Acid Reflux (GERD) Quick Overview

Patient Comments
  • Acid reflux (GERD) is a condition in which acid backs up from the stomach into the esophagus and even up to the throat, irritating the tissue.
  • Acid reflux can be caused by many different things, including lifestyle, medication, diet, pregnancy, rapid weight gain, and certain medical conditions.
  • Symptoms of acid reflux include heartburn, regurgitation of bitter acid into the throat, bitter taste in mouth, dry cough, hoarseness, feeling of tightness in the throat, and wheezing.
  • Tests to diagnose acid reflux (GERD) include and upper GI series (X-rays of the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the intestine), an upper GI endoscopy, esophageal manometry, or a 24-hour pH probe study.
  • Home remedies for acid reflux include changes in lifestyle, diet, and habits.
  • Treatment of acid reflux includes over-the-counter (OTC) medications including antacids and H2-blockers; prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors, coating agents, and promotility agents; and in severe cases, surgery. 
  • Acid reflux can be prevented in some cases by changing the habits that cause the reflux including avoiding alcohol, not smoking, limiting fatty foods and other food triggers, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding large meals within 3 hours of bedtime.
  • The prognosis for acid reflux (GERD) is good in mild to moderate cases. Chronic cases often respond to prescription drugs, and severe cases may require surgery to avoid serious complications.

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the esophagus becomes irritated or inflamed because of acid backing up from the stomach. The esophagus or food pipe is the tube stretching from the throat to the stomach. When food is swallowed, it travels down the esophagus.

The stomach produces hydrochloric acid after a meal to aid in the digestion of food.

  • The inner lining of the stomach resists corrosion by this acid. The cells lining the stomach secrete large amounts of protective mucus.
  • The lining of the esophagus does not share these resistant features and stomach acid can damage it.
  • The esophagus lies just behind the heart, so the term "heartburn" was coined to describe the sensation of acid burning the esophagus.

Normally, a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter, prevents reflux (or backing up) of acid.

  • This sphincter relaxes during swallowing to allow food to pass. It then tightens to prevent flow in the opposite direction.
  • With GERD, however, the sphincter relaxes between swallows, allowing stomach contents (gastric reflux) and corrosive acid to well up and damage the lining of the esophagus.

GERD affects about 20% of the US population. Not just adults are affected; even infants and children can have GERD.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/12/2015
Medical Author:

Must Read Articles Related to Acid Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) FAQs
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) FAQs Acid reflux (GERD) is caused by lifestyle factors (alcohol, obesity), medication, diet, medical conditions, and eating habits. Symptoms of acid reflux (GERD) in...learn more >>
Heartburn FAQs
Heartburn FAQs Heartburn FAQ including information about the causes of heartburn, lifestyle changes to reduce heartburn, OTC and prescription medications to decrease heartburn...learn more >>
GERD and Heartburn Medications
Understanding Heartburn/GERD Medications GERD and heartburn medications include antacids, histamine-2 blockers, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), coating drugs, and promotility drugs. Side effects, drug i...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Acid Reflux (GERD):

Acid Reflux (GERD) - Experience

Please share your experience with acid reflux or GERD.

GERD - Home Remedies

What lifestyle changes or home changes have you made that have been successful in managing GERD?

GERD - Symptoms and Signs

What were your GERD symptoms and signs?

GERD - Medical Treatment

What medical treatments have been effective in treating your case of GERD or acid reflux?

GERD - Medications

What over-the-counter or prescription medications have been effective in treating your case of GERD?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease »

Gastroesophageal reflux is a normal physiological phenomenon experienced intermittently by most people, particularly after a meal.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary