Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), gastric reflux disease, acid reflux disease, or reflux (in infants and young children) is a chronic condition of mucosal damage caused by stomach acid coming up from the stomach into the esophagus, causing a variety of troublesome symptoms including heartburn. GERD is usually caused by changes in the junction between the stomach and the esophagus, including abnormal relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter. It can also be due to the presence of a hiatal hernia.
Acid Reflux – Esophageal
Approximately 30 percent of the adult population suffers from some type of GERD. This condition develops when gastric contents in the stomach reflux back into the esophagus, causing typical symptoms of heartburn or acid regurgitation. This reflux may appear with or without mucosal erosions or relevant complications.
Acid Reflux – Extra Esophageal
When GERD manifests itself atypically as respiratory, laryngopharyngeal (LPR), nasopharyngeal, cardiac or silent symptoms it is often referred to as EER – extra esophageal reflux. Some of these atypical symptoms may include: Laryngitis, chronic cough, hoarseness or voice disturbances, bronchitis and/or asthma, recurrent pneumonia, or chest pain. All forms of extra esophageal reflux are the result of the rapid transit of gastric contents to the esophagus, and up into the larynx, bronchi, lungs, or sinuses. This type of reflux may be in association with any of the other prior mentioned appearances of reflux disease in the esophagus, or the esophagus may appear entirely normal. Silent Reflux is reflux that doesn’t produce typical symptoms – this condition has been called the “Silent Killer” because undiagnosed chronic reflux can lead to Barrett’s Esophagus or esophageal cancer.
Barrett’s Esophagus (BE)
Barrett’s Esophagus is thought to be a result of chronic GERD and is a coexisting condition associated with reflux. It may be found anywhere within the body of the esophagus, but is usually in the lower portion of the esophagus near the EG junction. BE usually develops as a result of mucosal destruction and tissue transformation associated with acid or bile damage to the esophageal tissue. Left untreated, or if unrecognized, Barrett’s can be associated with the development of esophageal cancer.