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 asthma, high blood pressure, or depression.
  • Hiatal hernia —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 scleroderma or certain nervous system disorders.
  • Current use of nasogastric tube—The tube passes through the LES.