Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that is caused by gastric acid flowing from the stomach into the esophagus. The lower esophageal sphincter (LES), a muscle located at the bottom of the esophagus, opens to let food in and closes to keep it in the stomach. When this muscle relaxes too often or for too long, acid flows back into the esophagus. Common causes include obesity, caffeine, smoking, alcohol, overeating, and the consumption of foods like citrus, chocolate or spicy foods.
Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD. Heartburn is described as a burning chest pain that begins behind the breastbone and moves upward to the neck and throat. It can last as long as two hours and is often worse after eating. Other symptoms include dry cough, asthma symptoms, or trouble swallowing.
Diagnostic procedures for GERD may include upper GI series, also known as a Barium swallow, an upper endoscopy, and pH monitoring. Specific treatment for GERD will be determined by your doctor based on a number of factors including age, overall health and medical history, and it is often relieved through diet and lifestyle changes and medication. In extreme cases, a surgical procedure called fundoplication may be performed to help keep the esophagus in proper position and prevent reflux.