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The Regional Medical Center of Acadiana
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mins
Women's & Children's Hospital
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mins

Risk Factors for Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)/Heartburn

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop GERD with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing GERD. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

The most common risk factor is a poorly functioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The sphincter may be impaired or damaged by:

  • Medications, such as those that treat asthma , high blood pressure , or depression .
  • Hiatal hernia —The top part of the stomach presses up into the chest cavity. It can change the shape, putting abnormal pressure on the stomach.
  • Pregnancy—Places extra pressure on the stomach. Symptoms may resolve when the pregnancy is over.
  • Obesity —Increases pressure in the abdomen.
  • Smoking—Weakens nerves and muscles that control the LES.
  • Vagus nerve damage (which controls the LES) from surgery or injury.
  • Conditions that affect the strength of the esophageal muscles, such as scleroderma or certain nervous system disorders.
  • Current use of nasogastric tube—The tube passes through the LES.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Daus Mahnke, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2015 -
  • Update Date: 05/20/2015 -
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated February 19, 2015. Accessed February 27, 2015.

  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The Merck Manual Professional Edition. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/gastrointestinal%5Fdisorders/esophageal%5Fand%5Fswallowing%5Fdisorders/gastroesophageal%5Freflux%5Fdisease%5Fgerd.html. Updated May 2014. Accessed February 27, 2015.

  • Katz PO, Gerson LB, et al. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108(3):302-328.

  • Mitre MC, Katzka DA. Pathophysiology of GERD: Lower esophageal sphincter defects. GERD in the 21st Century, Series 5. Practical Gastro website. Available at: http://www.practicalgastro.com/pdf/May04/MitreArticle.pdf. Published May 2004. Accessed February 27, 2015.

  • Symptoms and causes of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/ger-and-gerd-in-adults/Pages/symptoms-causes.aspx. Accessed February 27, 2015.

  • Understanding heartburn and reflux disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at: http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/heartburn-gerd. Accessed February 27, 2015.

  • 9/30/2008 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Jacobson BC, Moy B, et al. Postmenopausal hormone use and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168:1798-1804.

  • 4/25/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Shimamoto T, Yamamichi N. No association of coffee consumption with gastric ulcer, duodenal ulcer, reflux esophagitis, and non-erosive reflux disease: A cross-sectional study of 8,013 healthy subjects in Japan. PLoS One. 2013;8(6):e65996.