Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), also known as chronic acid reflux, is described as a condition in which acid-containing contents in the stomach consistently leak back up into the esophagus, which acts as a tube from the throat to the stomach. It is also considered a digestive disorder that affects the muscle ring between the esophagus and the stomach. This ring is also called the lower esophageal sphincter or LES. Its function is to transport food from the esophagus into the stomach and prevent the reflux of gastric contents back into the esophagus.
Typically, the lower esophageal sphincter opens to allow food into the stomach. Then, after consuming the food, it closes to stop food and acidic stomach juices from refluxing or flowing back into the esophagus. But when GERD happens, the lower esophageal sphincter becomes weak and relaxes when it shouldn’t. This lets the stomach’s content, such as acids and juices, flow into the esophagus.
Occasional acid reflux is common, often resulting in eating a large meal and lying down after eating. However, GERD has other causes and a risk factor that could lead to more severe complications. Knowing the symptoms may help determine if the acid reflux has serious underlying complications.
Heartburn is described as a burning sensation in the chest. It is usually triggered after eating, which might worsen at night, especially while lying down. The burning sensation is caused by stomach acid traveling up the throat, irritating the esophagus. Although it is named “heartburn,” the condition does not have anyhing to do with the heart. It was named as such because its symptoms resemble a heart attack.
Heartburn is a sensation behind the sternum or breastbone. Sometimes, the pain reaches the throat. Some symptoms include pain in the chest when bending over or lying down, having a hot, acidic, bitter, or salty taste in the back of the throat, difficulty swallowing, and long-term cough, sore throat, or hoarseness.
A problem in the lower esophageal sphincter leads to heartburn. In cases where it opens too often or does not close tightly enough, the stomach acid will be able to seep into the esophagus causing a burning sensation. People diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease experience frequent heartburn due to the malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter. In addition, heartburn is one of the earliest and most common signs of GERD.