GERD is a severe, chronic acid reflux condition in which acidic stomach contents back up into your esophagus. The muscle connecting the stomach to the esophagus is weak or relaxes abnormally, allowing this abnormal movement. Although this condition is rarely life threatening, it can lead to internal bleeding, ulceration, strictures, or esophageal cancer. Early detection can help prevent minor heartburn from becoming a major health issue.

Symptoms

The hallmark symptoms of GERD are:

  • Heartburn: For many people, acid indigestion (known as heartburn) is more than an occasional annoyance after eating a greasy meal. Research shows that more than 60 million people suffer from this burning sensation that can extend from the breastbone to the neck and throat. Heartburn sufferers may also experience a sore throat, hoarseness, chronic cough, asthma, or a feeling of a lump in the throat. Because there can be chest pain associated with GERD, heartburn sometimes is mistaken for a heart attack.

  • Regurgitation: a sensation of acid backed up in the esophagus

Other common symptoms are:

  • Feeling that food may be trapped behind the breastbone

  • Heartburn or a burning pain in the chest (under the breastbone)

    • Increased by bending, stooping, lying down, or eating

    • More likely or worse at night

    • Relieved by antacids


  • Nausea after eating

To help minimize heartburn symptoms:

  • Chew gum. It boosts saliva production, allowing quicker and more efficient neutralization of refluxed acid.

  • Lose weight, if indicated.

  • Stop smoking to help the esophageal muscle work better.

  • Elevate the head of the bed by 4 to 6 inches, using cinder blocks or telephone books.

  • Eliminate midnight snacks.

Diagnosis

If your symptoms are severe, recurrent, or ongoing for more than one year, one or more tests may help diagnose reflux or any complications:

  • Esophagogastric duodenoscopy (EGD) is often used to examine the esophagus for damage. The doctor inserts a thin tube with a camera on the end through your mouth. The tube is then passed into your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. Biopsies can be taken for evaluation.

  • Barium swallow

  • BRAVO pH system: A small capsule is temporarily attached to the esophageal wall and takes continuous pH measurements. Using these measurements, your physician can analyze and evaluate your symptoms.

  • Impedance pH monitoring

  • Esophageal manometry

Treatment

  1. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs

  2. Lifestyle changes including avoiding:

    • Spicy, fatty, or citrusy foods

    • Bending over or exercising just after eating

    • Garments or belts that fit tightly around your waist

    • Larger meals, especially before bedtime

    • Stress

  3. Surgery is an option for patients whose symptoms do not go away with lifestyle changes and medication. Heartburn and other symptoms should improve after surgery, but some drugs may be needed for heartburn.

Our providers

Gastroenterologist examines the stomach of the patient on the table

Expert gastroenterology care

Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our gastroenterologists.

Our locations

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MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Harbor Hospital

3001 S. Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

18101 Prince Philip Dr.
Olney, MD 20832

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

7503 Surratts Rd.
Clinton, MD 20735

MedStar St. Mary's Hospital

25500 Point Lookout Rd.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC 20007

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Health: Endoscopy Center at Lutherville

1300 Bellona Ave.
Bldg. A
Lutherville-Timonium, MD 21093

MedStar Health: Primary Care at Dundalk Professional Center

1576 Merritt Blvd.
Ste. 14
Dundalk, MD 21222

MedStar Health: Primary Care at Honeygo Center

5009 Honeygo Center Dr.
Ste. 216
Perry Hall, MD 21128

MedStar Health: Primary Care, Gastroenterology, and Endocrinology in Baltimore

5601 Loch Raven Blvd.
Russell Morgan Bldg.
3rd floor
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Shah Medical Group at Calvert Arts Medical Center

130 Hospital Road
Suite 300
Prince Frederick, MD 20678

410-535-0495

MedStar Health: Dermatology at Tenleytown

4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW
4th Floor
Washington, DC 20016

MedStar Health: Primary Care at Lafayette Centre

1133 21st St. NW
Bldg. 2
6th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

MedStar Shah Medical Group at Philip J. Bean Medical Center

24035 Three Notch Rd.
Hollywood, MD 20636

303-373-6900

MedStar Shah Medical Group at Fort Washington

900 E Swan Creek Road,
Fort Washington, MD 20744

MedStar Shah Medical Group at Waldorf

10 St. Patrick's Drive
Waldorf, MD 20603

MedStar Shah Medical Group at Shanti Medical Center

26840 Point Lookout Rd.
Leonardtown, MD 20650

MedStar Surgery Center

1133 21st St., NW
10th Floor Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20036