Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, refers to frequent (more than 2x per week) bouts of heartburn. In a healthy digestive tract, the sphincter, located at the base of the esophagus, opens to allow food to enter the stomach and then closes tightly. In a GERD patient, that sphincter does not close properly and allows the acid from the stomach to reenter the esophagus. Unlike the stomach lining which is acid resistant, the lining of the esophagus is sensitive to the acid and results in the pain that is referred to as heartburn.
The long term consequences of the acid reentering, or refluxing, into the esophagus can be severe; therefore, it is important to seek medical attention. Damage to sensitive tissue can lead to precancerous conditions and the acid can reach high into the esophagus causing damage to the throat and lungs.
Symptoms include: heartburn, indigestion, chest pain, coughing, and hoarseness.