Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid, or occasionally bile, leak backwards from the stomach into the food pipe (esophagus), causing irritation of the lining in the esophagus.

About 20-30% of Orange County residents suffer from daily chronic reflux. Some individuals can manage their condition with medications and lifestyle changes, yet for others, stronger medications or possibly surgery is needed.

Symptoms of GERD

Individuals that suffer daily from one or many of these symptoms below should speak with their physician about the possibility of GERD:

  • Heartburn
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Regurgitation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Asthma
  • Cough
  • Weight loss

Complications of GERD

When left untreated, or not treated to the proper extent, GERD can sometimes lead to other complications, including:

  • Esophagitis—inflammation of the esophagus
  • Esophageal stricture—narrowing of the esophagus
  • Esophageal ulcer—an open sore in the esophagus

Or, in some extreme cases, GERD can lead to precancerous changes to the esophagus, called Barrett’s esophagus, which, in turn, can lead to esophageal cancer.

Barrett’s Esophagus and Cancer

About 20 percent of individuals living with GERD develop Barrett’s esophagus‚Äč. Barrett’s esophagus is when the esophagus reacts to the repeated injury from the acidic fluid by changing the type of cells lining it from squamous (normal cells) to columnar (intestinal-type cells). This transformation is believed to be a protective response to make the esophagus more resistant to injury.

About 3.3 million American adults have Barrett’s esophagus. With modern medical technology, they can be treated.