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Is GERD a pre-existing medical condition?

As a general rule, any disease that you have or are being treated for comes under the purview of a pre-existing medical condition when you seek medical coverage for the costs incurred on treatment. To understand if your acid reflux is really a pre-existing medical condition, it would help to understand what this disease is all about, its causes, symptoms, and how it can be diagnosed. Armed with this knowledge, you will be in a better position to decide whether you suffer from this painful medical condition or not.  

Can GERD be a pre-existing conditionGERD - what is it? 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is often confused with heartburn as it works the same way heartburn does and gives rise to similar feelings. However, the difference between acid reflux and heartburn is that the former is more severe than the latter. Though heartburn can affect the esophagus as well the stomach, GERD usually affects the esophagus.  

In a healthy person, the sphincter that links the esophagus to the stomach stays closed, and opens only open when drink or food, which have been consumed, need to get into the stomach. However, it often stays released in people affected by reflux, thus causing the stomach acid to go up the esophagus. This in turn causes damage to the esophagus and gives rise to harsh pain and discomfort.   


Gastro esophageal reflux disease happens due to various reasons and the exact cause can differ from person to person. Patients with a history of long-term heartburn, who don't get treated, have a high chance of developing this disease.  

Obese people also run the risk of being affected by this disease. In such people, the excess weight put an excessive and unhealthy amount of pressure on the stomach and esophagus, thus causing a balance problem for the esophagus sphincter.   

GERD has a high chance of occurring in patients with a history of hiatus hernia who have had a tear in their diaphragm or a weakness in it.   

Intake of certain food may also cause this disease or worsen the condition. For example, drinking alcohol, coffee, or eating foods like citrus fruits etc that have high vitamin C content will produce more stomach acid. This in turn will give rise to severe pain. 


The major symptoms of this disease are acid regurgitation and heartburn, though some people may be affected by this disease without any signs of heartburn. Some other symptoms include: 

·        Chest pain: Patients usually experience a pain behind the sternum (the breastbone), which may go up to the throat. Such pain usually occurs after the intake of food and may last from a few moments to several hours. Since a heart attack pain is often confused with that caused by reflux, medical attention should be sought to establish the origin of chest pain, as and when it occurs. 

·        Difficulty in swallowing: When the food you eat can’t pass through the esophagus to enter the stomach, you may get a sensation of the food particles sticking in your throat. Feeling a burning sensation or chest pressure after eating is also common. Difficulty in swallowing could even be a sign of esophageal cancer and erosive esophagitis, which is why a physician’s evaluation should be sought at the earliest. 

·        Hoarseness: When refluxed stomach acid gets into the throat, it causes an irritation, which in turn leads to hoarseness in morning.  

·        Bad breath: When stomach climbs up into the throat and mouth, it causes a pungent smell in your mouth and gives rise to bad breath. 

·        Constant dry cough: Refluxed stomach acid, when aspirated, can cause coughing. In fact, studies have shown Gastro esophageal reflux to be responsible for almost 41% of cases of chronic cough in patients who don’t smoke.  


As soon as you notice any acid reflux symptoms, you should seek medical attention. A doctor will take your abdomen x-ray as the first step to diagnose the problem. You will be asked to drink a radiation laced liquid so that the doctor can see its effect on your system. In case s/he suspects the presence of Gastro esophageal reflux, an endoscopy of your throat as well as esophagus will be done. By getting images of the extent of damage that has been done in these regions, your doctor would be able to know the severity of the condition and plan the course of treatment.  

While some patients are given medications to decrease the effect of this illness and let them live with much less pain and discomforts, those with severe conditions are usually asked to opt for surgery. However, patients with mild symptoms can get a lot of relief by changing their diet and the way they sleep, as advised by their doctors.  

Thus, irrespective of whether your GERD is a pre-existing medical condition or not, it’s important to seek medical attention on time to prevent the condition from worsening.