Like many diseases, GERD's development is thought to depend on the interaction between risk factors and genetically determined physiologic mechanisms. Below are the conditions that are though to increase one's risk of GERD:
Eating Pattern. Lying on the back or bending over from the waist after eating increases one's risk for reflux. Having large meals close to bedtime can increase gastric pressure and the chances for reflux.
Pregnancy. Women in their third trimester of pregnancy are at an increased risk of GERD. This is due to the increased pressure the growing uterus which can impair stomach emptying.
Weight Gain and Obesity. Many studies suggest that obesity contributes to GERD, and it may increase the risk for erosive esophagitis in GERD patients. Having a large amount of fat in the abdomen leaves less room in the abdominal cavity and this results in increase pressure in the stomach. Obesity is thought to be an important risk factor for acid reflux and its complications such as Barrett's esophagus and cancer of the esophagus. Increased BMI is also associated with more severe GERD symptoms.
Respiratory Diseases. People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are at increased risk of GERD.
Smoking. Growing evidence links smoking with an increased risk for GERD. Research suggest that smoking reduces LES muscle function, increases acid secretion, impairs muscle reflexes in the throat, and damages protective mucus membranes. Smoking also reduces salivation. Saliva plays an important part in preventing reflux because it helps neutralize acid.
Alcohol. Alcohol may cause the LES muscles to relax. Taking alcohol in high amounts may irritate the mucus membrane of the esophagus. A combination of heavy alcohol use and smoking is linked to a higher risk for cancer of the esophagus.
Genetics. An inherited risk exists in many cases of GERD. Genetic factors play a strong role especially in the susceptibility to Barrett's esophagus, a precancerous condition caused by very severe GERD.
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