What is Acid Reflux Disease?

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Acid reflux disease, Gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD, heartburn and acid indigestion, are all terms used to describe an unpleasant and often painful condition where stomach acid flows backward or refluxes into the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

The tube, called the esophagus has a muscular ring around it where it joins to the stomach. This ring, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), acts as a one way valve that opens to allow food to enter the stomach and then closes to prevent the stomach contents to moving backward from the stomach to the esophagus.

When reflux occurs, the LES opens when it should be closed.  This may occur because of anatomic abnormalities such as hiatal hernia, impaired nerve or muscle function as well as some foods or medications. GERD is more common in overweight people, pregnant women, and people over 40.

While the stomach is able to handle digestive acids, the lining of the esophagus cannot.  Acid that refluxes into the esophagus causes the pain of heartburn and can damage the esophageal lining causing chronic inflammation and leading to serious damage and increased risk of esophageal cancer.

Do You need surgery for acid reflux?

Reflux surgery may be considered if a person’s symptoms are not relieved with lifestyle changes or medications, or if they experience serious complications of GERD such as strictures, Barrett’s esophagus, or respiratory problems. However, the decision to undergo reflux surgery is a complex one that should be made in consultation with Dr. Bagnato and other members of your health team.

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