What Are the Symptoms of GERD in Adults?

Reviewed on 10/7/2020

What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD describes chronic heartburn that can damage the lining of the esophagus and cause other problems.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD describes chronic heartburn that can damage the lining of the esophagus and cause other problems.

Acid reflux is a condition in which the acid from the stomach backs up into the esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach. When acid reflux occurs more than twice weekly, is chronic, or causes uncomfortable symptoms or damage, it is considered to be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What Are Symptoms of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in adults include:

What Causes Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Adults?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak or relaxes, causing stomach contents to back up into the esophagus. 

Causes of lower esophageal sphincter weakness or relaxation include:

How Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Adults Diagnosed?

After a history and physical examination, tests used to diagnose acid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) include: 

  • Upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy and biopsy
  • Upper GI series
  • Esophageal pH and impedance monitoring
  • Esophageal manometry 
  • Stool occult blood test


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What Is the Treatment for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) in Adults?

Some people can manage gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) on their own with lifestyle changes or by taking non-prescription medicines. 

Home remedies to relieve gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) include:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
  • Raise the head of the bed 6 to 8 inches using blocks of wood or rubber under 2 legs of the bed or a foam wedge under the mattress
  • Avoid foods that worsen symptoms 
  • Avoid medications such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) that may aggravate GERD
  • Take medications with plenty of water
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t overeat
  • Don’t eat 2 to 3 hours before bed
    • Lying down with a full stomach can make reflux worse
  • Wear loose clothing around the stomach area

If lifestyle changes do not relieve symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), medications used to treat the condition include: 

In severe cases of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) surgery may be recommended when symptoms do not improve with lifestyle changes or medications. 

Surgery used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) includes: 

  • Fundoplication
    • A laparoscopic procedure in which a thin tube with a tiny video camera is inserted into the abdomen and the top part of the stomach is sewn around the esophagus to reduce reflux
  • Endoscopic techniques
    • Endoscopic sewing uses small stitches to tighten the sphincter muscle
    • Radiofrequency creates heat lesions, or sores, to help tighten the sphincter muscle
    • Results for endoscopic techniques are not as good as those for fundoplication

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Reviewed on 10/7/2020