Gastroesophageal reflux, also known as acid reflux, occurs when the stomach contents reflux or back up into the esophagus and/or mouth. Reflux is a normal process that occurs in healthy infants, children, and adults. Most episodes are brief and do not cause bothersome symptoms or complications.
In contrast, people with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) experience symptoms as a result of the reflux. Symptoms can include heartburn, vomiting, or pain with swallowing. The reflux of stomach acid can adversely affect the vocal cords or even be inhaled into the lungs (called aspiration).
What is Gastroesophageal Reflux?
When we eat, food is carried from the mouth to the stomach through the esophagus, a tube-like structure that is approximately 10 inches long and 1 inch wide in adults. The esophagus is made of tissue and muscle layers that expand and contract to propel food to the stomach through a series of wave-like movements called peristalsis. At the lower end of the esophagus, where it joins the stomach, there is a circular ring of muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). After swallowing, the LES relaxes to allow food to enter the stomach and then contracts to prevent the backup of food and acid into the esophagus.
However, sometimes the LES is weak or becomes relaxed because the stomach is distended, allowing liquids in the stomach to wash back into the esophagus occasionally in all individuals. Most of these episodes occur shortly after meals, are brief, and do not cause any symptoms. Normally, acid reflux should occur only rarely during sleep.
Acid reflux becomes gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) when it causes bothersome symptoms or injury to the esophagus. The amount of acid reflux required to cause GERD varies, so it’s important to talk to us about your symptoms so that we can accurately diagnose and treat your symptoms.
In general, damage to the esophagus is more likely to occur when acid refluxes frequently, the reflux is very acidic, or the esophagus is unable to clear away the acid quickly. The most common symptoms associated with acid reflux are heartburn, regurgitation, chest pain, and trouble swallowing. At Bay Area Houston Gastro, we offer treatments that are designed to prevent one or all of these symptoms from occurring.
View the full PDF for more information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of GERD.
If you suffer from symptoms of GERD, call us today at (281) 338-2861 to make an appointment for an evaluation.