Gastroesophageal reflux disease, acid reflux, heartburn

Interview between:

  • Nora Lansen, MD

  • Andrew Cunningham, MD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or “GERD” for short, is the name given to symptoms that occur due to reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus. GERD can be further classified based on its effect on the tissue, erosive or nonerosive.

Cases Per Year (US)

Over 9 million primary care visits are attributed to GERD annually.

General Frequency

18-28% of the US population experiences GERD.


Variable. Occasional, non-severe reflux is not seriously damaging. Chronic reflux can alter the esophageal tissue and increase the risk for esophageal cancer.



What causes GERD? 

GERD is caused by the displacement of stomach acid from the stomach into the esophagus. In an optimal anatomic situation, the lower esophageal sphincter keeps the hydrochloric stomach acid from entering the esophagus, similar to a drawstring or the neck of a balloon. 

However, numerous factors such as pressure on the stomach due to tight clothing or excess abdominal girth, a hiatal hernia (which inadequately keeps the stomach beneath the diaphragm), and various dietary influences can cause stomach acid to regurgitate in the wrong direction, which in turn leads to GERD.

What does GERD pain feel like? 

Symptoms vary, but the primary one is a sensation of burning under the sternum. Somewhat less common is regurgitation of stomach contents (acid or undigested food). 

Other symptoms may include coughing, irritation in the throat, difficulty or pain with swallowing, hoarseness, and even chest pain, which in some cases can be as severe as that associated with heart attacks. 

How are GERD and acid reflux connected?

Acid reflux is a more familiar term for GERD. The terms are used interchangeably, though not everyone with GERD feels an acidic sensation or a reflux sensation.









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Nora Lansen, MD and Andrew Cunningham, MD are both members of the Galileo Clinical Team. Connect with one of our physicians about GERD or any of the many other conditions we treat.

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