Medical Definition of Esophageal reflux

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Esophageal reflux: A condition wherein stomach contents regurgitate or back up (reflux) into the esophagus (a long cylindrical tube that transports food from the mouth to the stomach). The food in the stomach is partially digested by stomach acid and enzymes. Normally, the partially digested acid content in the stomach is delivered by the stomach muscle into the small intestine for further digestion. In esophageal reflux, stomach acid content refluxes backwards up into the esophagus, occasionally reaching the breathing passages, causing inflammation and damage to the esophagus, as well as to the lung and larynx (the voice box). The process is medically termed gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). 10% of patients with GERD develop a Barrett's esophagus which can increase the risk of cancer of the esophagus.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018

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