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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

Do you have heartburn? The cause might be stomach acid leaking back into your esophagus (the tube that funnels what you eat to your stomach).

When this happens, it's called acid reflux. If the acid damages your esophagus, you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 

These are the most common symptoms of GERD:

  • Frequent heartburn
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Dry, chronic cough
  • Feeling fluid at the back of your throat
  • Anemia
  • Nausea or vomiting

Having these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you have GERD. Many other conditions have similar symptoms. See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms and it doesn't go away.

GERD: what you should know

  • Risk factors for GERD include obesity, pregnancy and smoking, among others.
  • Many common medications can cause GERD or make it worse:
    • Asthma medications
    • Calcium channel blockers
    • Some antidepressants
    • Some antihistamines
    • Some painkillers 
  • Some people can help their symptoms with lifestyle changes such as losing weight; however, many people will need medications to control symptoms.
  • GERD may increase your risk for developing Barrett's esophagus, which can make you more likely to develop esophageal cancer. If you have GERD, talk with your doctor about whether you should be screened for Barrett's esophagus.

How can I get help for GERD?

Visit your primary care physician if you have the following:

  • Heartburn that occurs more than three times a week
  • Regurgitation
  • The feeling of food being stuck in your chest
  • Persistent cough
  • Nausea after a meal
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Multiple cavities and erosion in your teeth

If your primary care doctor suspects you have GERD, he or she can refer you to Rush's multidisciplinary heartburn team.

Departments and programs that treat this condition