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Acid Reflux Disease Q&A: When Is Heartburn More Than Just Uncomfortable?

Find out what puts you at risk for acid reflux


Everyone feels the sting of heartburn every now and then. But if you have a painful, burning sensation in your chest more often, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

GERD is also called acid reflux disease. The pain may start in your stomach and move up to the middle of your chest. You may even feel pain in your throat. About one or two out of 10 adults in the U.S. have GERD. Are you at risk? We asked one of our specialists, Lehigh Valley Health Network surgeon Scott Beman, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery, about risk factors for GERD.

Q: Does age put you at risk?

A: In general, getting older doesn’t increase the risk for getting GERD. But older adults may be more likely to have serious esophagus problems that are tied to GERD.

Q: Does gender put you at risk?

A: Both men and women have about the same chance of getting GERD.

Q: Does weight matter?

A: People who are overweight or obese are three times more likely to develop GERD. Being overweight or obese also puts you at a greater risk for serious esophagus problems. By staying at a healthy weight, you can lower your risk for getting GERD.

Q: What if you have a family member with GERD?

A: GERD appears to run in families. If you have a first-degree relative with GERD, you are up to 2 1/2 times more likely to develop the condition.

Q: Does smoking increase risk?

A: Smoking or breathing secondhand smoke may raise the risk for GERD. Avoid or quit smoking to dodge this risk factor.

Q: What about alcohol?

A: Drinking alcohol may raise the risk for GERD. But researchers aren’t sure how much alcohol puts you at risk. If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, talk with your doctor.

Q: Can medications increase risk?

A: Certain medicines can raise your risk for GERD. Talk with your doctor about your medications and your risk for GERD.

If you are coping with GERD, start by talking with your primary care doctor about ways you can treat it. Should you find that conservative treatments don't bring you relief, LVHN offers other treatment options, including LINX.

chronic condition


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