PATIENT EDUCATION SERIES: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

July 2004 
Volume 34  Number 7
Pages 54 - 55
  PDF Version Available!


  • What is GERD?

  • How will my health care provider know I have GERD?

  • How is GERD treated?

  • How does my GERD medicine help me?


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    What is GERD?

    Short for gastroesophageal reflux disease, GERD causes heartburn and other problems, such as chest pain, nausea, and coughing, after you eat. These problems happen when food or liquid in your stomach goes the wrong way and travels up your esophagus instead of staying in your stomach.

    Normally, food passes from your mouth down your esophagus into your stomach. A muscle where your esophagus and stomach meet keeps food in your stomach. But if you have GERD, the muscle sometimes opens at the wrong times, letting food and stomach acid into your esophagus. This causes heartburn, coughing, and other symptoms.

    Figure. No caption available. How will my health care provider know I have GERD?

    First, she'll ask you many questions about your health and your symptoms. She'll ask you to describe your symptoms and what triggers them. She'll also want to know how long symptoms last and what makes them go away. She'll probably diagnose GERD based on your symptoms. You won't need tests unless you have symptoms that don't improve with treatment. Then your health care provider may order one or more of these tests:

    * Barium upper gastrointestinal radiography (X-ray) . You'll be asked to drink a chalky-tasting liquid containing barium , which coats your esophagus and stomach so they show up on X-ray. A technologist will take X-rays of your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine. This test may last several hours.

    * Esophagogastroduodenoscopy with biopsies . Your health care provider will place a flexible tubelike instrument called an endoscope down your throat. She'll use it to ...

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