Heartburn (GERD)

Heartburn (GERD): Glossary

Here are definitions of medical terms related to heartburn and hiatal hernia (GERD).

Abdomen: The body cavity located just below the ribcage that contains the organs of digestion.

Asthma: A condition in which the small airways in the lungs are inflamed and become narrow when the person is exposed to something to which he or she is sensitive, causing difficulty in breathing.

Barrett esophagus: A rare complication of GERD where stomach cells start growing in the esophagus, sometimes leading to esophageal cancer.

Diaphragm: A sheet of muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities.

Dysphagia: A condition in which swallowing is difficult or painful and food is held up in its passage to the stomach.

Endoscope: A thin, flexible tubular instrument with a light at the end that is used to view the interior of the body, help in diagnosing diseases, and perform minimally invasive surgery.

Esophageal hiatus: An opening in the diaphragm that allows the esophagus to pass through into the abdominal cavity.

Esophageal stricture: A narrowing in the esophagus from chronic scarring, sometimes caused by acid damage, that interferes with swallowing of food and saliva.

Esophagitis: An inflammation of the lining of the esophagus that may cause bleeding and ulcers.

Esophagus: The muscular tube through which food passes from the mouth to the stomach.

Gastroenterologist: A doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive system.

Heartburn: A burning sensation behind the breast bone that occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus.

Hiatal hernia: A condition that occurs when part of the stomach bulges up into the chest cavity through the hole (hiatus) for the esophagus.

Histamine blockers: Drugs used to treat GERD, such as Zantac andTagamet, that partially reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach.

Laparoscope: An illuminated viewing tube and surgical instrument that is inserted through a small incision in the abdominal wall to perform minimally invasive surgery.

Lower esophageal sphincter (LES): A band of muscle tissue that contracts during swallowing, preventing stomach contents from flowing back up into the esophagus.

Prokinetic medications: Drugs used to treat GERD, such as Reglan, that reduce backflow of stomach contents by causing the lower esophageal sphincter to close more completely.

Proton pump inhibitors: Drugs used to treat more severe cases of GERD, such as Prilosec and Prevacid, that act in the last stage of acid secretion in the body and almost completely suppress acid production in the stomach.

Radiologist: A specialist who uses x-rays and other forms of radiation in diagnosing and sometimes treating diseases.

Reflux: The backflow of stomach contents up into the esophagus.

Sphincter: A band of tissue that acts like a one-way valve, allowing substances in the body to flow in one direction.

Ulcer: A break in the skin or in the mucous membrane lining the digestive tract, which may become inflamed..

Upper GI series: (also called barium x-rays), A series of x-rays of the esophagus and stomach taken as the patient swallows a drink containing barium, a material that is visible on the x-rays.

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