What is GERD or Acid Reflux?
GERD is the acronym for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. Many people believe that occasional acid reflux or heartburn is GERD however this is not quite true. Occasional heartburn, indigestion or acid reflux is quite normal. It may be caused by certain foods or something as simple as a heavy cough. Even some medications can cause acid reflux. This is called GER or Gastroesophageal Reflux.
Rather, GERD is when GER becomes a disease – it is the chronic form of heartburn or acid reflux. If a patient experiences symptoms of heartburn or acid reflux often – the rule of thumb is a couple times a week or more for several weeks – they may have GERD and should see a doctor as soon as possible.
GERD affects the LES or Lower Esophageal Sphincter, a muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach. Normally, the LES acts as a one-way valve, allowing food to enter the stomach, but preventing the acidic contents of the stomach from flowing back up into the esophagus. When the LES begins to weaken, acidic fluid can begin to reenter the esophagus, causing (often serious) discomfort. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from GERD at least once a month and many more experience GER on occasion, making acid reflux a serious lifestyle problem.
Many sufferers wait too long to begin the treatment of their GERD. Over the longer-term, untreated GERD can cause erosion of the esophageal wall, breathing problems and strictures which can lead to serious complications and reduced quality of life.