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The term reflux is a shorter way of referring to GER (Gastro Esophageal Reflux) and is simply defined as the backward flow of stomach contents up the esophagus.  The category of GER can range from reflux material simply entering the distal (bottom of the) esophagus to spitting up and even frequent projectile vomiting.  GER is a physiological* process that happens to everyone—young and old—from time to time, particularly after meals and many times we are not even aware it is happening.

When is GER really called GERD?
In contrast, GER (Gastro Esophageal Reflux) is referred to as GERD (Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease) when complications arise.  GERD is a pathological** process and the complications can be typical (failure to thrive, feeding and oral aversions, esophagitis, etc) or atypical (wheezing, pneumonia, chronic sinusitis, etc).  Patients with GERD have complications arising from their GER that necessitate medical intervention.  GERD is also referred to as "Pathogenic GER".  It is estimated that approximately one in three hundred children will present symptoms of GERD and is more common in children with neurological impairments.

About Reflux
Sometimes referred to as heartburn (which is actually just a symptom of reflux) or acid reflux, reflux is the backward flow of stomach contents up the esophagus and sometimes out the mouth.  The esophagus is a long tube that carries food and liquids from your mouth to your stomach. At the lower end of the esophagus, a valve called the lower esophageal sphincter, or LES, opens when you swallow to let food and liquids into your stomach, and then closes again to keep stomach contents in their place.

When the LES doesn't function properly it allows stomach contents including hydrochloric acid to back up into the esophagus. This is what causes the pain and damage from reflux. Our stomachs have a protective lining to protect itself from the naturally occurring acid, the esophagus, throat, nasal cavities, lungs and teeth do not. Over time, repeated exposure to these areas by acid can cause increasing damage and cause more serious complications.

It is thought that about one third of the adult population experiences reflux at least once a month and that about 10% of the population experiences reflux weekly or daily.  As well, at least 50% of infants are born with some degree of reflux simply from immaturity of the LES. Most of these infants will not have complications and will outgrow it before they are a year old.  It is estimated that about 3% will not outgrow it and will experience the more serious complications related to GERD.

SOURCE: Infant Reflux


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