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A weakening or dysfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) is the primary cause of GERD. The LES is a valve-like muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach.
In normal digestion, the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) opens to allow food to pass from the esophagus into the stomach. It closes to prevent food and stomach acid from flowing back into the esophagus. If the LES is not functioning properly, the contents of the stomach can flow back into the esophagus, causing GERD.
While your stomach can naturally protect itself from irritation that reflux can cause, your esophagus cannot. Long-term exposure damages the lining of your esophagus and can lead to precancerous conditions, such as Barrett's esophagus.
GERD and Hiatal Hernia
Some studies show a link between hiatal hernia and GERD. A hiatal hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes into the diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdomen.
If you have a hiatal hernia, your diaphragm may not be able to properly support the lower end of the esophagus. This can potentially lead to the development of GERD. However, not all people with a hiatal hernia will develop gastroesophageal reflux.
Clinical trials are research studies that evaluate a new medical approach, device, drug, or other treatment. As a Stanford Health Care patient, you may have access to the latest, advanced clinical trials.
Open trials refer to studies currently accepting participants. Closed trials are not currently enrolling, but may open in the future.