GERD: Facts, Statistics, and You (2023)

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Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition that affects the digestive system. While most people experience heartburn or indigestion from time to time, if you feel that burning sensation in your chest more than twice a week, you might have GERD.

The condition is a more serious and long-lasting form of acid reflux. Most people can manage GERD with over-the-counter (OTC) medications and a few lifestyle changes.

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Anyone can develop GERD. It occurs across every age group and ethnicity. However, you’re more likely to have GERD if:

  • You’re overweight or obese.
  • You’re pregnant.
  • You take certain medications, including antihistamines, painkillers, and antidepressants
  • You smoke or are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke.

One of the biggest challenges in determining the number of people living with GERD is identifying who actually has the disease. Many people with GERD symptoms don’t consult a healthcare provider. A 2014 systematic review estimates from 15.1 to 30 percent[DS1] of the U.S. population has GERD.

According to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP), there were 995,402 hospitalizations for GERD in 1998. In 2005, there were 3.14 million, an increase of 216 percent. In both years, approximately 62 percent of all GERD hospital discharges involved women.

The same study showed that the number of adults hospitalized for GERD decreased by 2.4 percent between 1998 and 2005. During the same period, the rate increased by 42 percent for babies. It increased by 84 percent for children aged two to 17.

(Video) GERD by the Numbers Facts, Statistics & You

In 2010, 4.7 million hospitalizations and 1,653 deaths were a result of GERD, reports the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

GERD is a result of a weak lower esophageal sphincter. That weakness allows the contents of your stomach to flow back up into your esophagus.

There are a variety of factors that can weaken your esophageal sphincter, including:

  • overeating
  • being overweight
  • pregnancy
  • smoking or regular exposure to secondhand smoke
  • hiatal hernia (part of the stomach protrudes into the diaphragm muscle)

Certain foods and beverages can trigger GERD. Some of the more common food triggers include:

  • fried or fatty foods
  • citrus
  • chocolate
  • coffee
  • carbonated beverages
  • drinks containing alcohol

Some medications can cause GERD, too. Among them are:

  • alpha blockers
  • anti-inflammatories
  • sedatives
  • nitrates

If you take medication and have symptoms of GERD, speak to your doctor or pharmacist. They can discuss switching or stopping the medication with you. Don’t stop taking a prescribed medication without consulting your doctor first, though.


(Video) GERD by the Numbers Facts, Statistics & You

The most common symptoms of GERD are acid indigestion and heartburn. You may frequently burp and feel bloated.

Acid in your esophagus can make it spasm. That causes pain and a feeling of tightness in the chest.

Other symptoms of GERD include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • belching
  • difficulty swallowing
  • tooth erosion and bad breath
  • problems swallowing (dysphagia)
  • respiratory problems
  • abdominal pain

Some cases of heartburn may be a sign of a more serious condition. See your doctor if your heartburn:

  • occurs more frequently than once a week
  • becomes more severe
  • occurs at night and wakes you from sleep

Seek immediate medical attention if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Consider it an emergency if:

  • you’re vomiting large amounts
  • you have projectile vomiting
  • your vomit contains green or yellow fluid
  • your vomit looks like coffee grounds

In most cases, doctors diagnose acid reflux by reviewing symptoms and medical history. If you often have heartburn or acid indigestion that won’t go away, testing for GERD may be recommended.

(Video) Heartburn: a Deep Dive into Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Diagnostic testing may include:

  • Endoscopy. A fiber-optic tube is passed down your throat so your doctor can view your esophagus and stomach. Tissue samples can be taken for biopsy.
  • Upper GI series X-rays. These are taken after you drink a barium solution. This procedure can find ulcers, hiatal hernias, and other abnormalities.
  • Esophageal monitoring. This is a way to measure acid levels in your lower esophagus for 24 hours.
  • Manometry. A manometry measures the rhythmic muscle contractions that occur in your esophagus when you swallow.

GERD can usually be managed with OTC medications, such as the following:

  • Antacids can neutralize stomach acid.
  • An H2 receptor blocker, like cimetidine, treats excess stomach acid.
  • Proton pump inhibitors reduce the amount of acid your stomach produces.

If OTC drugs aren’t working well, your doctor can prescribe alternative medications:

  • Sucralfate forms a protective film on the surface of your esophagus and stomach.
  • Metoclopramide helps your esophagus contract efficiently and your stomach to empty faster.

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You may be able to ease your symptoms by making a few simple changes:

  • Avoid smoking and being around secondhand smoke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight, and avoid tight clothing around your middle.
  • Eat smaller meals. Keep a food diary so you can pinpoint and avoid the foods that trigger your symptoms.
  • Try to move around a little after you eat, staying upright for three hours after meals. A short walk may go a long way.

If you don’t find relief from medication and lifestyle changes, surgery may be an option. The most common surgical treatment options include:

  • Fundoplication. This is the most common surgery for GERD. Your surgeon wraps the top of your stomach around the lower esophageal sphincter to tighten the muscle and prevent reflux. Fundoplication is usually done with a minimally invasive (laparoscopic) procedure.
  • LINX reflux management system. A ring of tiny magnetic beads is wrapped around the junction of the stomach and esophagus. The magnetic attraction between the beads is strong enough to keep the junction closed to refluxing acid, but weak enough to allow food to pass through. The LINX system can be implanted using minimally invasive surgery. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the LINX system in 2012 for people with GERD who haven’t been helped by other treatments.

Living with GERD

(Video) GERD: Evaluation and Management of Acid Reflux - Lisa D. Lin, MD | UCLAMDChat

For most people, GERD is a manageable condition. If left untreated, though, GERD can lead to serious complications.

Scar tissue can cause the esophagus to become too narrow (esophageal stricture). This can make swallowing difficult and painful.

Stomach acid entering into your lungs can cause serious harm. Lung damage can make you more likely to have chest congestion and wheezing. This puts you at increased risk for recurrent pneumonia or asthma.

Long-term inflammation of the esophagus (esophagitis) increases the risk of precancerous cells in the esophagus. Severe cases of GERD can lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. That’s when your esophagus grows tissue resembling the tissue found in the lining of your intestine. Barrett’s esophagus increases your risk of esophageal adenocarcinoma, a rare type of cancer.

According to the HCUP, 4.2 percent of GERD hospitalizations involved an esophageal disorder in 2005. Cases of dysphagia grew by 264 percent between 1998 and 2005. Esophageal adenocarcinoma rose by 195 percent. Esophagitis increased by 94 percent.

If you need to be hospitalized, GERD can be costly. In 1998, a hospital stay for GERD averaged $5,616 in the United States, reports HCUP. By 2005, it had risen to $6,545.

Nationally, total hospital costs for GERD were $509 million in 1998. By 2005, costs rose to $622 million, an increase of 22 percent.

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In the United States alone, overall spending on all gastrointestinal diseases was estimated to be $142 billion per year in direct and indirect costs in 2009, notes a 2015 review. Researchers note GERD accounts for approximately $15 to $20 billion of these direct and indirect costs.

Jen Thomas is a journalist and media strategist based in San Francisco. When she’s not dreaming of new places to visit and photograph, she can be found around the Bay Area struggling to wrangle her blind Jack Russell Terrier or looking lost because she insists on walking everywhere. Jen is also a competitive Ultimate Frisbee player, a decent rock climber, a lapsed runner, and an aspiring aerial performer.

(Video) How good are you at calculating risk? - Gerd Gigerenzer


Did you know facts about GERD? ›

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?
  • GERD is a common disorder.
  • The most common symptom is heartburn, a burning pain in your chest.
  • GERD can permanently damage the inside lining of your esophagus.
  • GERD can also affect your voice box, windpipe, and lungs.
  • Treatment relieves symptoms in most people.

What are the statistics of acid reflux? ›

GERD is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders, with a prevalence of approximately 20% of adults in western culture. A systematic review by El-Serag et al. estimated the prevalence of GERD in the US between 18.1% to 27.8%.

What percentage of the world has GERD? ›

The incidence of GERD is high in the general population, it is estimated to affect up to 20% of the population worldwide (12,13). Nowadays GERD is found to be the most common diagnosis made in a gastroenterology practice (14).

What causes GERD the most? ›

Eating large meals or eating late at night. Eating certain foods (triggers) such as fatty or fried foods. Drinking certain beverages, such as alcohol or coffee. Taking certain medications, such as aspirin.

Does GERD stay forever? ›

While most people experience occasional heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux, GERD is a chronic condition with symptoms that can occur daily. It can cause serious complications over time if it's left untreated.

What age is GERD most common? ›

GERD has been considered to be a disease of middle aged and older subjects. One study demonstrated that the prevalence of gastroesophageal reflux symptoms was significantly higher in subjects aged ≥50 years as compared with those who were aged < 50 years (OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 1.12–1.54; P < 0.001).

Who is GERD most common in? ›

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is very common, affecting up to 1 in 5 or more of adult men and women in the U.S. population. It also occurs in children. Although common, the disease often is unrecognized – its symptoms misunderstood.

Is GERD a disease or disorder? ›

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition in which the stomach contents move up into the esophagus. Reflux becomes a disease when it causes frequent or severe symptoms or injury. Reflux may damage the esophagus, pharynx or respiratory tract.

Is GERD genetic? ›

Genetic contribution seems to play a major role in GERD and GERD- related disorders development such Barrett's esophagus and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Twin and family studies have revealed an about 31% heritability of the disease.

What gender is GERD most common? ›

GERD occurs more in females than in males with an increase in age. The frequency of GERD in patients older than 50 years was associated with increase in age. Heartburn and regurgitation were prevalent in our population as it was previously reported (8), but sex difference was not significant in neither of the symptoms.

How risky is GERD? ›

If untreated, the disease can lead to serious complications including precancerous conditions and esophageal adenocarcinoma. Pharmacotherapy is considered as the first-line treatment in GERD patients but lifestyle modifications, including diet changes, are an important element supporting the treatment of the disease.

Is GERD an everyday thing? ›

Severe chronic GERD sufferers can experience symptoms as often as several times a week or even daily.

What are the 4 types of GERD? ›

Types of GERD
  • Stage 1: Mild GERD. Minimal acid reflux occurs once or twice a month. ...
  • Stage 2: Moderate GERD. Symptoms are frequent enough to require prescription acid reflux medication, which is typically taken daily. ...
  • Stage 3: Severe GERD. ...
  • Stage 4: Precancer or cancer.

Does stress cause GERD? ›

A. Yes, it's possible. Emotional stress can increase acid production in the stomach, aggravating gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In people with GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter muscle (which acts as a door between the stomach and the esophagus) doesn't work properly.

Can GERD heal itself? ›

GERD is a potentially serious condition, and it will not go away on its own. Untreated GERD can lead to inflammation of the esophagus and cause complications like ulcers, strictures and increased risk of Barrett's esophagus, which is a precursor to esophageal cancer.

Can I live a normal life with GERD? ›

Although you may have been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), that doesn't mean you can't enjoy your life to its fullest. There are ways to control GERD that won't necessarily make your acid reflux go away, but it may help alleviate the symptoms enough so that you forget that they are there.

Can GERD go away without medication? ›

Instead of taking medication to relieve symptoms, it is possible to cure GERD from the inside out. By optimizing all aspects of gut health, including the microbiome, acid content, gut lining, and digestion, my patients have learned how to cure GERD without the need for medication.

Does GERD worsen over time? ›

Gastroesophageal reflux (acid reflux) is when stomach acid flows into the esophagus where it doesn't belong. Over time, that acid can cause damage, irritation, and symptoms will get progressively worse.

Are you born with GERD? ›

This suggests that genetics play a role in causing acid reflux. An earlier study published in Gut journal found that one twin was 1.5 times more likely to suffer from GERD if their identical twin had the condition. The study compared heartburn incidence in more than 2,000 sets of identical twins.

What diseases are related to GERD? ›

What are the complications of GERD? Without treatment, GERD can sometimes cause serious complications over time, such as esophagitis, esophageal stricture, and Barrett's esophagus, as well as complications outside the esophagus.

Is GERD a chronic illness? ›

GERD is considered a chronic disease and may not be entirely curable.

Can GERD be mental? ›

There is some evidence to suggest that stress and anxiety may provoke acid reflux or make the symptoms worse. For instance, a 2018 study involving more than 19,000 people found that those with anxiety were more likely to experience GERD symptoms.

Can GERD cause high blood pressure? ›

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - In patients with both gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and essential hypertension, episodes of reflux can trigger elevations in blood pressure (BP), especially at night, according to research from China.

Is GERD a terminal? ›

Although GERD itself isn't a life threatening condition, it can lead to more serious health issues and complications if it's left untreated.

Can GERD lead to other diseases? ›

Left untreated, GERD can result in several serious complications, including esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus. Esophagitis can vary widely in severity with severe cases resulting in extensive erosions, ulcerations and narrowing of the esophagus. Esophagitis may also lead to gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding.

Is GERD rare in kids? ›

In infants, GERD is a less common, more serious form of spitting up. Children and adolescents may be diagnosed with GERD if they show symptoms and experience other complications.

Can GERD affect your heart? ›

People who have GERD are more likely than others to end up with heart disease, characterized by abnormal heartbeats, plaque buildup in the heart arteries or reduced blood flow to the heart. In 2010, heart disease caused one out of every four U.S. deaths. If you have abnormal signs or symptoms, go to the emergency room.

How often do GERD attacks happen? ›

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also abbreviated to GERD, is unusually frequent or chronic reflux. Patients typically experience the symptoms at least two times a week, if not more.

What medications causes GERD? ›

Medications and dietary supplements that can irritate your esophagus and cause heartburn pain include:
  • Antibiotics, such as tetracycline and clindamycin.
  • Bisphosphonates taken orally, such as alendronate (Fosamax), ibandronate (Boniva) and risedronate (Actonel, Atelvia)
  • Iron supplements.
  • Quinidine.

What body part causes GERD? ›

This muscle is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When your LES relaxes too often or for too long, acid backs up into your esophagus. This causes heartburn and may cause damage.

Does lack of sleep cause acid reflux? ›

Lack of sleep and stress can also cause more acid to be formed in the stomach, which irritates the LES, allowing the acid to reach the esophagus and causing heartburn and acid reflux/GERD symptoms.

Can I drink coffee with GERD? ›

Should people with GERD avoid caffeine? Gastroesophageal reflux disease usually causes heartburn, as well as respiratory and digestive symptoms. Doctors often recommend that people with this common illness avoid drinking caffeine.

Can GERD cause panic attacks? ›

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as acid reflux disease, may cause breathing problems, sweating, or chest pains and sometimes triggers a nighttime panic attack.

When was the first case of GERD? ›

History of GERD

1828—Charles Millard in Paris noticed the first case of esophagitis in child. 1879—Heinrich Quincke reported that ulceration in the esophagus was due to gastroesophageal reflux. 1906—Tilston described the typical symptoms of esophagitis.

When was GERD first diagnosed? ›

Since GERD was first described in 1879 by Heinrich Quincke, our understanding of its pathophysiology has slowly expanded and evolved. Factors now known to contribute to GERD include: Transient lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxation.

What problems can GERD lead to? ›

Left untreated, GERD can result in several serious complications, including esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus. Esophagitis can vary widely in severity with severe cases resulting in extensive erosions, ulcerations and narrowing of the esophagus. Esophagitis may also lead to gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding.

Is GERD a disease or syndrome? ›

Overview. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disorder that occurs when acidic stomach juices, or food and fluids back up from the stomach into the esophagus. GERD affects people of all ages—from infants to older adults. People with asthma are at higher risk of developing GERD.

Where is GERD most common? ›

GERD is a chronic and highly prevalent disorder. A recent systematic review showed that the prevalence of GERD is 18.1–27.8% in North America, 8.8–25.9% in Europe, 2.5–7.8% in East Asia, 8.7–33.1% in the Middle East, 11.6% in Australia, and 23.0% in South America.

What is another name for GERD? ›

Acid reflux, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), is the backward flow of stomach acid into the tube that connects your throat to your stomach (esophagus). During an episode of acid reflux, you might feel a burning sensation in your chest (heartburn).

Who commonly gets GERD? ›

Anyone of any age can develop GERD, but some may be more at risk for it. For example, the chances you'll have some form of GERD (mild or severe) increase after age 40. You're also more likely to have it if you're: Have overweight/obesity.

Can GERD cause Stroke? ›

GERD was positively associated with stroke; the male sex (adjusted hazard ratio [HR] = 1.31); an age of 65 years or older (adjusted HR = 1.11); hyperlipidemia (adjusted HR = 1.14); ischemic heart disease (adjusted HR = 1.27); renal disease (adjusted HR = 1.45); and use of aspirin (adjusted HR = 2.34), clopidogrel ( ...

Can GERD cause blood clots? ›

While severe reflux esophagitis can frequently cause upper gastrointestinal bleeding, significant bleeding leading to the formation of a blood clot in the esophagus is rare.


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