Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) occurs when stomach acid repeatedly flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach (esophagus). This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your esophagus. Many people experience acid reflux from time to time. However, when acid reflux happens repeatedly over time, it can cause GERD.
- GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux or reflux of nonacidic content from the stomach.When you swallow, a circular band of muscle around the bottom of your esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. Then the sphincter closes again.If the sphincter does not relax as it should or it weakens, stomach acid can flow back into your esophagus. This constant backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus, often causing it to become inflamed.
- Common signs and symptoms of GERD include:
- A burning sensation in your chest (heartburn), usually after eating, which might be worse at night or while lying down
- Backwash (regurgitation) of food or sour liquid
- Upper abdominal or chest pain
- Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
- Sensation of a lump in your throat
If you have nighttime acid reflux, you might also experience:
- An ongoing cough
- Inflammation of the vocal cords (laryngitis)
- New or worsening asthma