Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic digestive disease that occurs when stomach acid or, occasionally, bile flows back (refluxes) into your food pipe (esophagus). The backwash of acid irritates the lining of your esophagus and causes GERD signs and symptoms. In some cases, GERD is caused by a hiatal hernia.
Signs and symptoms of GERD include:
In many cases, GERD can be relieved through diet and lifestyle changes. Foods and drinks like chocolate, fried or fatty foods, coffee and alcoholic beverages can cause or worsen GERD symptoms, as can cigarette smoking. Even with lifestyle adjustments, some patients may still require medication or surgery to find relief. When lifestyle and dietary changes are unsuccessful, a more detailed diagnostic evaluation must be performed. If left untreated, GERD can lead to serious complications, including cancer of the esophagus.