At the Medical Center of Aurora (TMCA), our board-certified and fellowship-trained surgeons provide expert treatment for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a digestive disorder that occurs when contents of the stomach reflux into the esophagus and cause problems, such as chest pain, heartburn, or regurgitation.
The esophageal reflux disease team at TMCA is led by Dr. Jenifer Marks. Trained at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the top cancer centers in the country, Dr. Marks is a dedicated general thoracic surgeon with experience in treating GERD and other esophageal conditions using mostly minimally-invasive procedures.
Causes of GERD
GERD is caused by a progressive failure of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the muscular sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach. The muscle is supposed to relax to let food into the stomach after a swallow and then close to prevent any stomach contents from refluxing back into the lower esophagus. In patients with GERD, the LES starts to fail and this allows acid to reflux into the lower esophagus, causing symptoms like heartburn and regurgitation.
Although a specific cause for the failure of the LES has not been identified, there are several lifestyle factors that have been associated with GERD, including:
- Obesity and overeating
- Excess caffeine or alcohol consumption
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Regularly taking over-the-counter pain and fever medications
There are also some foods that are known to cause or exacerbate GERD, including citrus fruits, chocolate, fried foods and spicy foods.
Symptoms of GERD
The most common symptom of GERD is heartburn, or acid reflux. It may be accompanied by regurgitation, a sour or bitter taste in the throat, burping and bloating. Some GERD patients also experience chest pain, indigestion, excessive throat clearing, hoarseness, chronic cough or asthma.
Long-term symptoms and complications of GERD can include inflammation, bleeding and scarring of the esophagus, esophageal stricture, dental problems, asthma attacks, Barrett’s esophagus and, in a very small percentage of patients, esophageal cancer. At TMCA, we’re dedicated to moving quickly to diagnose and treat GERD before more serious conditions can develop.