Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into your esophagus, which is the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. This backwash, called acid reflux, can irritate the lining of your esophagus.
Many people experience mild acid reflux from time to time. They usually can manage with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications. But some people with more frequent acid reflux (occurring several times a week) may need stronger medications or surgery to ease symptoms.
GERD is caused by frequent acid reflux. When you swallow, a circular band of muscle around the bottom of your esophagus (lower esophageal sphincter) relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow into your stomach. Then the sphincter closes again. If the sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back up into your esophagus. This constant backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus, often causing it to become inflamed.
It's important to seek medical attention if you experience chronic GERD or inflammation of your esophagus.
Your doctor is likely to recommend that you first try lifestyle modifications and over-the-counter medications. If you don't experience relief within a few weeks, your doctor might recommend prescription medication or surgery.
Medications typically prescribed reduce stomach acid production. They are effective and safe, even with long-term use. They usually are taken once or twice a day.
GERD can usually be controlled with medication. But if medications don't help or you wish to avoid long-term medication use, your doctor might recommend fundoplication. In this procedure, the surgeon wraps the top of your stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter, to tighten the muscle and prevent reflux. Fundoplication is usually done with a minimally invasive (laparoscopic) procedure. The wrapping of the top part of the stomach can be partial or complete.