A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop GERD with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing GERD. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
The most common risk factor is a poorly functioning lower esophageal sphincter (LES). The sphincter may be impaired or damaged by:
Medications, such as those that treat
high blood pressure
—The top part of the stomach presses up into the chest cavity. It can change the shape, putting abnormal pressure on the stomach.
Pregnancy—Places extra pressure on the stomach. Symptoms may resolve when the pregnancy is over.Obesity
—Increases pressure in the abdomen.
Smoking—Weakens nerves and muscles that control the LES.Vagus nerve damage (which controls the LES) from surgery or injury.
Conditions that affect the strength of the esophageal muscles, such as
or certain nervous system disorders.
Current use of nasogastric tube—The tube passes through the LES.
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Katz PO, Gerson LB, Velva MF. Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of gastroesophageal reflux disease.
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Mitre MC, Katzka DA. Pathophysiology of GERD: Lower esophageal sphincter defects. GERD in the 21st Century, Series 5. Practical Gastro website. Available at: http://www.practicalgastro.com/pdf/May04/MitreArticle.pdf. Published May 2004. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Symptoms and causes of gastroesophageal reflux (GER) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). National
Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
website. Available at:
http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/ger-and-gerd-in-adults/Pages/symptoms-causes.aspx. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Understanding heartburn and reflux disease. American Gastroenterological Association website. Available at:
http://www.gastro.org/patient-center/digestive-conditions/heartburn-gerd. Accessed February 27, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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