What is GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) refers to the stomach's acid going up the esophagus. Watch this video to see Mallik Piduru, MD from Oak Hill Hospital, describe the surgical treatment of GERD.
Jenifer L. Marks, MD
Vascular Surgery
GERD affects about 1 in 5 Americans, says Jenifer Marks, MD, on behalf of The Medical Center of Aurora. Find out its causes, symptoms, and treatments by watching this video.
Gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD) is caused when acid escapes the stomach due to a bad valve. In this video, John Bagnato, MD, of Coliseum Medical Centers, explains how this occurs.
GERD is an abbreviation for gastroesophageal reflux disease, a condition that refers to damage to the lining of the lower esophagus caused as a result of frequent or prolonged exposure to stomach acid. The primary symptom is acid reflux (also known as heartburn), which is felt as a burning sensation in the pit of the stomach or in the middle of the chest beneath the breastbone. Sometimes pain can be felt between the shoulder blades or in the jaw or teeth.
Intermountain Healthcare
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which food and acids in the stomach move back up into the esophagus. This is called reflux. Stomach acid from reflux can irritate the esophagus and cause heartburn, indigestion, and trouble swallowing. When reflux continues, it becomes GERD.
Lawrence S. Friedman, MD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder affecting the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscle connecting the esophagus and stomach. The LES is a high-pressure zone that acts as a barrier to protect the esophagus against the backflow of gastric acid from the stomach.

Normally, the LES works something like a gate, opening to allow food to pass into the stomach and closing to keep food and acidic stomach juices from flowing back into the esophagus. Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when the LES relaxes when it shouldn't or becomes weak, allowing contents of the stomach to rise up into the esophagus. Scientists aren't sure exactly why this happens. The LES is a complex segment of smooth muscle under the control of nerves and various hormones. As a result, dietary substances, drugs, and nervous system factors can impair its function.
Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition in which the liquid content of the stomach regurgitates (backs up, or refluxes) into the esophagus. Some people reflux up food or liquids, while others reflux acid, so in truth GERD does not always equal acid reflux. But stomach liquids usually contain stomach acid and the enzyme pepsin, both of which can inflame and damage the lining of the esophagus. The refluxed liquid also may contain bile that has backed up into the stomach from the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine that attaches to the stomach. The acid is believed to be the most injurious component of the refluxed liquid, though pepsin and bile also may cause damage.
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease refers to the damage of the esophageal tissue caused by reflux of stomach contents up into your esophagus. Most specifically it is the acid from the stomach contents that cause the damage.
Millions of Americans have GERD, a condition in which stomach acid backs up into the esophagus because the valve that separates the stomach from the esophagus is weak.

Gastroesophageal reflux occurs when contents in the stomach flow back into the esophagus. This happens when the valve between the stomach and the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, does not close properly.
Lyall A. Gorenstein, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common digestive disorder with symptoms of heartburn in which stomach contents regurgitate (reflux) into the esophagus often causing inflammation and damage to the esophagus and occasionally to the lungs and vocal cords. Afflicting an estimated 25 million Americans, GERD has a variety of different causes.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) develops when the muscle between the esophagus and the stomach, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), which normally acts as a valve to let food enter the stomach, opens spontaneously or does not properly close, resulting in stomach contents backing up into the esophagus. This reflux, or backwash of food, acid and enzymes into the esophagus may cause a burning sensation in the throat or chest. If this occurs more than once or twice a week, such acid reflux is considered to be GERD, and may lead to serious health problems.

GERD irritates the esophagus and can lead to a narrowing and/or ulceration of the esophagus, a risk of Barrett's esophagus, and a slightly increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

Large food portions increase the risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which occurs when acidic stomach contents pass back up into the esophagus. This happens when the pressure in the stomach exceeds the pressure exerted by the lower esophageal sphincter muscle. Once the stomach acid reaches the esophagus, a little can be done to stop it from traveling to your throat, sinuses, larynx, or lungs, especially after meals and at night when you are lying flat.

Continue Learning about GERD



GERD -- gastroesophageal reflux disease -- can cause heartburn, however, it isn’t the same. GERD is a chronic problem that is experienced at least twice a week. Learn more from our experts about GERD.

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.