Occasional liquid or gas reflux is considered normal. When the mixture refluxes into the esophagus more frequently than normal, or for longer periods than normal, this is GERD. Some people are born with a naturally weak lower esophageal sphincter which is also known as a Hiatal hernia. The LES acts like a one-way valve at the top of the stomach, allowing food to pass through into the stomach.
Normally, the LES closes immediately after swallowing to prevent back up of stomach juices, which have a high acid content, into the esophagus. GERD occurs when the LES does not function properly, allowing acid to flow back and burn the lower esophagus causing irritation and inflammation of the esophagus, resulting in heartburn and eventually damage of the esophagus. The Medical Center offers a minimally invasive treatment option GERD.
To learn more about symptoms, causes and treatments for GERD and reflux disease, please visit our health library.