Acid Reflux Disease and GERD

Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Stack of Antacid Tablets
skhoward/E+/Getty Images

Whether you suspect you suffer from acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or you are newly diagnosed, you probably want to learn all about the symptoms, causes, and treatment options. GERD disease is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly. Stomach acid, and occasionally stomach content, flows back up into the esophagus, irritating the lining.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux

One of the most common symptoms of GERD is heartburn, although some people with acid reflux don't experience any heartburn episodes at all. Other symptoms can be present as well. These include: 

  • A burning sensation in your chest that sometimes spreads to your throat
  • A sour taste in your mouth
  • Regurgitation of food or sour liquid
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dry cough
  • Hoarse or sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • A sensation of a lump in your throat

Acid Reflux Risk Factors

Certain health conditions and lifestyle habits put you more at risk for developing GERD. These include:

  • Obesity
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Dry mouth
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • Delayed stomach emptying
  • Connective tissue disorders, such as scleroderma

Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease

Only a small percentage of patients will need the tests to diagnose acid reflux. The majority of doctors will prescribe a trial of acid-suppressive therapy and make a diagnosis based on the patient's response to this.

For some patients, acid reflux can cause erosive esophagitis, a condition that causes inflammation, swelling or irritation of the esophagus. More than half of acid reflux patients, however, have a non-erosive type of acid reflux. With the non-erosive form of GERD, referred to as nonerosive reflux disease (NERD), patients experience typical GERD symptoms caused by acid reflux, but they do not have visible esophageal injury.

Some patients continue to have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux despite a standard treatment with proton pump inhibitors. They have what is known as refractory gastroesophageal reflux disease (refractory GERD). Patients who experience refractory GERD usually fall into one of two groups: Those who need more aggressive treatment, and those who have other causes of their reflux symptoms.

How to Treat & Prevent Acid Reflux

Your physician will usually suggest certain lifestyle modifications and dietary changes first, such as maintaining an acid reflux diet. If you continue to experience symptoms after these modifications, your physician will discuss other options with you. These include

If you and your physician decide a surgical option is necessary, the most common surgical treatment for GERD is the fundoplications surgery. Another procedure sometimes used in the treatment of GERD is the radiofrequency treatment.

Acid Reflux Complications

If acid reflux disease is not treated effectively, the constant acid reflux can irritate the lining of the esophagus and serious complications can occur. These complications include

There are several steps you can take that can drastically reduce your chances of developing one of these complications. These include lifestyle modifications and dietary changes.


Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, July 31). GERD. Retrieved April 09, 2016, from