What is Reflux?
Reflux, or acid reflux, commonly experienced as heartburn or regurgitation, occurs when stomach contents back up, or reflux, into the esophagus (the tube connecting the mouth to the stomach) exposing it to gastric acid and juices that normally belong in the stomach. While some reflux is normal, it can also be abnormally frequent and severe enough to impact daily life.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is the term used is there is abnormally frequent or chronic reflux. It is the most common gastrointestinal-related diagnosis given by physicians during clinical visits in the U.S. Although GERD is not a life-threatening disease, serious complications such as esophageal stricture, Barrett’s esophagus or adenocarcinoma of the esophagus may occur. GERD affects patients differently and involves symptoms which vary from mild or moderate to severe. Mild sufferers may experience occasional bouts of heartburn whereas more severe patients may experience heartburn daily. Other patients never experience heartburn but may have atypical symptoms such as asthma, chronic cough, hoarseness or chest pain due to reflux. Treatment for GERD varies according to the severity of the disease and to the individual. Mild sufferers may experience relief by implementing simple lifestyle changes. Others achieve effective symptom control through medical therapy. Patients who experience more troublesome symptoms of GERD may require or opt for surgery. It is important to remember that GERD is a chronic disease that usually requires lifetime management to control symptoms.
Normally, the connection between the esophagus and stomach is angled to maintain a valve function, a flap type valve that would prevent the content of the stomach from going the wrong direction. An abnormal valve is flattened and no longer provides the flap function and more easily allows the content of the stomach to go the wrong direction.