Conditions InDepth: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) results when gastric acid, food, and liquid from the stomach chronically flow up into the esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach).
GERD is caused by a weakness or transient relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) muscle. The LES sits at the juncture between the esophagus and the stomach. When you eat, food and liquid travel down the esophagus to the stomach. Once they arrive, the resting tone of the LES helps keep stomach contents from refluxing or moving backward into the esophagus. But when the LES is weakened, it does not work properly. Stomach contents may reflux into the esophagus, which can cause the burning sensation in the chest known as heartburn.
For a list of conditions that can weaken the LES,
While most Americans suffer from heartburn at one time or another, it is estimated that 17 million Americans suffer from chronic GERD.
Possible long-term complications of GERD include esophagitis,
American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/ . Accessed March 6, 2006.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information . 17th edition. Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.ctsnet.org/ . Accessed March 7, 2006.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
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