Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease(GERD)


There’s nothing pleasant about that burning feeling in your chest caused by acid reflux. But is it something you should be concerned about? Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is an irritation caused by stomach acid or digestive fluid (bile) that backs up into the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach (esophagus). At the bottom of the esophagus is a muscle (sphincter). Normally, the muscle relaxes to let food and liquid into the stomach, then it closes. When the muscle doesn’t work correctly, acid can seep through, producing a burning feeling in the chest (heartburn). Long-term heartburn can cause acid to wear away the lining of the esophagus and cause problems, including scar tissue that narrows the esophagus, sores (peptic ulcers in the esophagus or even precancerous changes to the esophagus (Barrett's esophagus).


Symptoms of GERD start with frequent heartburn but may also include:

  • A sour taste in the mouth
  • Trouble swallowing or feeling like there’s a lump in the throat
  • Dry cough or throat clearing repeatedly
  • Sore throat or hoarseness
  • Acid reflux (the backing up of sour fluid in the mouth)
  • Chest pain (severe chest pain could be something more serious than GERD and requires immediate medical help)
  • Frequent cough

Consult your doctor for frequent heartburn, or if symptoms don’t get better with over-the-counter medications.

Call your doctor right away if you have chest pain, bloody or dark stools or emesis, trouble swallowing, or unexplained weight loss.


To diagnose GERD, you’ll meet with your doctor to talk about your symptoms. Your doctor will also perform a physical exam and may order tests, including:

  • Endoscopy: A flexible tube equipped with a light and a tiny camera (endoscope) is inserted down the throat to see inside the esophagus and stomach. If needed, a tissue sample (biopsy) can be done during an endoscopy. 
  • pH monitoring: This test checks for stomach acid in the esophagus. 
  • Motility testing: This measures if the esophagus is working properly. A thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into the nose, down the esophagus and into the stomach.

Services & Treatment

If you have GERD, your Aurora team will work with you to determine the best treatment options for relief.

Dietary and lifestyle recommendations:

  • Maintain healthy weight
  • Eat smaller more frequent meals
  • Avoid lying down after eating
  • Avoid fatty foods, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine and peppermint
  • Don't smoke
  • Elevate your head by six inches with a pillow wedge

Over-the-counter medicines, such as:

  • Antacids. These will address symptoms but won't fix any damage stomach acid has caused in the esophagus.
  • H-2 receptor blockers. This heartburn medication reduces the amount of acid the body makes. They can help relieve symptoms for longer periods of time.
  • Proton-pump inhibitors. These block the acid the body makes, which allows the esophagus to heal.

If OTC medication doesn't work, your doctor may recommend prescription medication:

  • Prescription-strength H-2 receptor blockers
  • Prescription-strength proton-pump inhibitors
  • Prokinetic agents to tighten the muscle between the stomach and esophagus (esophageal sphincter) and help the stomach empty faster
  • If medications aren't effective, as a last resort, you may need surgery. Your doctor will discuss your options with you.

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