Acid reflux is actually what happens when stomach acid flows back (or refluxes) into your esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach). When this happens again and again along with symptoms like heartburn—occurring 2 or more times a week—you may have acid reflux disease. Another term used to describe acid reflux disease is gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
But no matter how you refer to it, acid reflux disease is a chronic condition that could cause damage to your esophagus because of repeated acid reflux.
If you think you may have acid reflux disease, talk to your doctor.
Stomach acid, which we need to digest our food, is not a problem when it stays where it belongs—in your stomach.
Acid reflux is a physical condition where the contents of the stomach—including acid—back up (or reflux) into the esophagus.If this condition happens too frequently, it could cause acid reflux disease.
The role of the LES
Between your esophagus and your stomach there is a natural barrier, or valve, called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). For most people, the LES works just fine. But for some people with acid reflux disease, this valve does not always work the way it should for 2 reasons:
- It relaxes too frequently
- It's too weak
How acid reflux occurs
Acid reflux disease occurs when stomach acid regularly escapes into the esophagus. Heartburn is the most common symptom. Other symptoms may include a bad taste in your throat and belching.
To get a better understanding of how acid reflux occurs, watch the video.
Damage to the esophagus
The lining of your stomach is built to handle stomach acid. But the lining of your esophagus is not. It can protect itself for a while, but when acid comes in contact with this lining for an extended period of time, it can lead to serious damage. And as a result, you may experience heartburn and other painful or uncomfortable symptoms.
If left untreated, acid reflux disease may cause damage (erosions) to the lining of the esophagus, a condition known as erosive esophagitis. If you have any concerns about your symptoms, please be sure to talk to your doctor.