Skip to content

Heartburn/GERD Health Center

How Acid Reducers Can Help Treat Heartburn

Font Size
A
A
A

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

Effects of Uncontrolled Heartburn

For most people, the painful burning sensation in the chest that comes from heartburn is just an occasional mild annoyance. But for those who experience it on a regular basis, uncontrolled heartburn can turn into a very serious problem. Heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD. GERD results from the improper working of the a valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), that normally keeps food and acids inside the stomach. When it doesn't work correctly,...

Read the Effects of Uncontrolled Heartburn 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
Slideshow
Heartburn or Heart Attack
Article
 
heartburn
Article
Top 10 Heartburn Foods
Video
 
Is it Heartburn or Gerd
Video
digestive myths
Slideshow
 
Extreme Eats
Slideshow
graphic of esophageal area
Article