Synonyms: Gastroesophageal reflux disease, Gastric reflux

Medical Specialties: Family practice, Gastroenterology, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

GERD, Gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a digestive disorder that causes gastric contents to reflux from the stomach back up to the esophagus, and usually occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter muscle fails to contract properly. Prolonged exposure to gastric contents can lead to complications and esophageal tissue damage, such as erosive esophagitis and Barrett’s esophagus. 

In Our Own Words

GERD is a very common medical condition in which digestive acids travel from the stomach up to the esophagus, causing heartburn. Normally, a band of muscle at the bottom of your esophagus opens, so food and liquids creep along to the stomach. The muscle then closes in order to prevent stomach acids from migrating back up. When GERD develops, this band does not close properly, and stomach acids flow to the esophagus.

After repeated exposure to stomach acid, complications can develop like damage to the lining of the esophagus. In addition, a pre-cancerous condition referred to as Barrett’s esophagus may occur. 

Relevant Conditions
  • Reflux esophagitis
  • Barrett’s esophagus
  • Hiatal hernia
Common Types
  • Non-erosive
  • Erosive
Side Effects
  • Heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Belching
Share this article
  • Katz, Philip M.D., Gerson, Lauren B. M.D., et al. “Diagnosis and Management of Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.” American College of Gastroenterology 2013. Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Cleveland Clinic. GERD Disorders. “Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease.” Accessed Aug. 2013.
  • Stony Brook Medicine. What You Should Know About GERD. Accessed Aug. 2013.
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