This topic is about
gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) in adults. For
information on reflux in babies and children, see
Gastroesophageal Reflux in Babies and Children. For information on reflux while pregnant, see Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease During Pregnancy. For information about occasional heartburn, see Heartburn.
stomach acid and juices flow from the stomach back up
into the tube that leads from the throat to the stomach (esophagus ). This causes
heartburn. When you have heartburn that bothers you often, it is called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Eating too much or bending forward after eating sometimes causes
heartburn and a sour taste in the mouth. But having heartburn from time to time
doesn't mean that you have GERD. With GERD, the reflux and heartburn last longer and
come more often. If this happens to you, be sure to get it treated, because
GERD can cause
ulcers and damage to your esophagus.
Normally when you swallow your food, it first travels down the food pipe (esophagus). A valve opens to let the
food pass into the stomach, and then the valve closes. With GERD, the valve doesn't
close tightly enough. Stomach acid and juices from the stomach flow back up
(reflux) into the esophagus.
The main symptom of GERD is
heartburn. It may feel like a burning, warmth, or pain just behind the
breastbone. It is common to have symptoms at night when you're trying to
If you have pain behind your breastbone, it is important to
make sure that it isn't caused by a problem with your heart. The burning sensation
caused by GERD usually occurs after you eat. Pain from the heart usually feels
like heaviness, tightness, discomfort, or a dull
ache. It occurs most often after you are active.
First, your doctor will do
a physical exam and ask you questions about your health. You may or may not
need further tests. Your doctor may just treat your symptoms by recommending
medicines that reduce or block stomach acid. These include H2 blockers such as famotidine (Pepcid) and proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole (Prilosec). If your
heartburn goes away after you take the medicine, your doctor will likely
For mild symptoms of GERD, you
can try over-the-counter medicines. These include antacids (for example, Tums),
H2 blockers (for example, Pepcid), and proton pump inhibitors (for example,
Prilosec). Changing your diet, losing weight if needed, and making other
lifestyle changes can also help. If you still have symptoms after trying
lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medicines, talk to your doctor.