Skip to content

    Heartburn/GERD Health Center

    Font Size

    How Acid Reducers Can Help Treat Heartburn

    What is GERD?

    Gastroesophageal reflux, commonly known as heartburn, is a burning feeling in the center of your chest. It often happens after you eat, after you bend over, or when you lie down. Nearly everyone experiences mild reflux symptoms at some point in life. But GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is reflux that occurs often enough that the symptoms are bothersome.

    When you swallow, food passes down your throat and through your esophagus to your stomach. A muscle called the lower esophageal sphincter controls the opening between the esophagus and the stomach. It remains tightly closed except when you swallow. When this muscle fails to close, the contents of the stomach, which contain acid, can travel back up into the esophagus. This backward movement is called reflux. When stomach acid enters the lower part of the esophagus, it can produce the burning sensation of heartburn.

    Recommended Related to Heartburn/GERD

    Heartburn in Children and Infants

    Heartburn is a common complaint in adults, especially after eating a hearty or spicy meal. Yet, infants and children also can experience that burning sensation in the chest. According to some estimates, about 2% of children ages 3 to 9, and 5% of children ages 10 to 17, have heartburn. Symptoms can even start in infancy.

    Read the Heartburn in Children and Infants article > >

    When reflux happens only occasionally, it is not really a concern. If it happens more than two times per week, reflux becomes GERD.

    Who Gets GERD?

    GERD can happen to people at any age.

    What Are the Symptoms of GERD?

    Frequent heartburn (also called acid indigestion or acid reflux) is the most common symptom of GERD. However, some adults with GERD and most children under the age of 12 do not have heartburn. In these people, symptoms of GERD might include coughing, problems swallowing, and/or asthma-like breathing symptoms.

    How Is GERD Diagnosed?

    A doctor will do a physical exam and take a medical history to diagnose GERD. He or she may also order certain tests, including:

    • Barium swallow
    • Upper endoscopy, which uses an endoscope -- a thin, flexible tube that has a light and a camera
    • pH monitoring exam
    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Woman eating pizza
    How it starts, and how to stop it.
    man with indigestion
    Get lifestyle and diet tips.
    woman shopping for heartburn relief
    Medication options.
    man with heartburn
    Symptoms of both.
    digestive health
    Heartburn or Heart Attack
    stomach acid rising
    Woman eating pizza
    digestive myths
    Extreme Eats
    Bowl of pasta and peppers