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Is there more than one type of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

There are different causes of GERD, but not more than one type. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when there is an imbalance between the normal defense mechanisms of the esophagus and offensive factors such as acid and other digestive juices and enzymes in the stomach. Often, the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus is impaired by weakening of the muscle (lower esophageal sphincter) or the presence of a hiatal hernia, where part of the stomach is displaced into the chest. Hiatal hernias, however, are common, and not all people with a hiatal hernia have reflux. A major cause of reflux is obesity whereby increased pressure in the abdomen overcomes the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus. Obesity, pregnancy, smoking, excess alcohol use and consumption of a variety of foods such as coffee, citrus drinks, tomato-based products, chocolate, peppermint and fatty foods may also contribute to reflux symptoms. Common symptoms of GERD are heartburn and/or acid regurgitation. Heartburn is a burning sensation felt behind the breastbone that occurs when stomach contents irritate the normal lining of the esophagus. Acid regurgitation is the sensation of stomach fluid coming up through the chest, which may reach the mouth. Less common symptoms that may also be associated with gastroesophageal reflux include unexplained chest pain, wheezing, sore throat and cough, among others. You should see your doctor immediately if you have symptoms such as unexplained weight loss, trouble swallowing or internal bleeding, in addition to heartburn and/or acid regurgitation. Symptoms that persist after you have made simple lifestyle changes also warrant a visit to your doctor. In addition, if you use over-the-counter medications regularly to reduce symptoms such as heartburn or acid regurgitation, you should consult a physician to determine the best course of treatment for you.
The current definition of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) requires the presence of troubling symptoms or complications from reflux of the contents of the stomach. Some patients with GERD can have actual inflammation, ulcers, narrowing and even cancer developing in the esophagus from the reflux. Other patients just have troubling symptoms.

 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.