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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease


Gastroesophageal reflux disease

(GERD) occurs when stomach acid and food in the stomach reflux (back up) into the esophagus. GERD often occurs when the lower muscle (sphincter) of the esophagus does not close properly. The sphincter normally opens to let food into the stomach. It then closes to keep food and stomach acid in the stomach. If the sphincter does not close properly, stomach acid and food back up (reflux) into the esophagus.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel full and cannot burp or vomit.
  • You have severe chest pain and sudden trouble breathing.
  • Your bowel movements are black, bloody, or tarry-looking.
  • Your vomit looks like coffee grounds or has blood in it.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your symptoms get worse or do not improve with treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Diagnosis of GERD:

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and when they started. Tell him about other medical conditions you have, your eating habits, and your activities. You may also need tests such as an endoscopy, abdominal x-ray, or esophageal pH monitoring. These tests are done if your GERD does not get better or gets worse.

Treatment for GERD:

Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to decrease stomach acid. He may also prescribe medicine that help your esophagus and stomach move food and liquid to your intestines. Surgery may be done if other treatments do not work. You may need surgery to wrap the upper part of the stomach around the esophageal sphincter. This will strengthen the sphincter and prevent reflux.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Manage and prevent GERD:

  • Do not have foods or drinks that may increase heartburn. These include chocolate, peppermint, fried or fatty foods, and drinks that contain caffeine. Do not have foods or drinks that can irritate your esophagus, such as citrus fruits, juices, and alcohol.
  • Do not eat large meals. When you eat a lot of food at one time, your stomach needs more acid to digest it. Eat 6 small meals each day instead of 3 large ones and eat slowly. Do not eat meals 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Drink liquids between meals. Do not drink liquids with meals unless directed by your dietitian.
  • Sit up when you eat or drink. Remain sitting up at least 30 minutes after you eat.
  • Elevate the head of your bed. Place 6-inch blocks under the head of your bed frame. You may also use more than one pillow under your head and shoulders while you sleep. Do not lie down for 1 hour after eating or drinking.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, weight loss may help relieve symptoms of GERD.
  • Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter. Ask for information if you need help quitting.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.