About 30 to 40 million people in the United States annually complain of frequent heartburn and indigestion, a chronic condition that we describe as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is characterized by regular reflux – the regurgitation of acid and other stomach content into the esophagus. Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, coughing, and chest pain.
Although less common, there are several other types of esophageal disorders, and their symptoms sometimes mimic those of GERD. These conditions may be caused by a lower esophageal sphincter (the muscular ring between the esophagus and the stomach) that fails to relax, a weak esophagus wall, poorly coordinated contractions of the esophagus, a narrowing of the esophagus, or tumors.