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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD); Facts to Know.

* Heartburn is a common symptom caused by the refluxing of stomach acid into the esophagus. In some people, the acid irritates the lining of the esophagus initiating a contraction of the smooth muscle in the esophagus causing the pain or discomfort known as heartburn, or even damage of the esophageal lining, a condition called esophagitis. In some people, reflux causes heartburn and acid regurgitation symptoms, but does not damage the lining of the esophagus. This condition is known as NERD (non-erosive reflux disease) or ENRD (endoscopic negative reflux disease).

* The lower esophageal sphincter is normally closed after a meal. When this sphincter relaxes inappropriately it allows stomach contents to wash back up into the esophagus.

* The most common symptoms of GERD include heartburn and an acidic or sour taste in the mouth (known as acid regurgitation).

* Other symptoms that might be caused by GERD include hoarse voice, wheezing, sore throat, coughing, fullness in throat, difficulty swallowing and chest pain.

* Symptoms of GERD effect about 20 percent of the population once a week. Children, men and women can all be affected by GERD.

* GERD is a chronic condition, but for most sufferers this condition can be treated satisfactorily with lifestyle changes and medications.

* When left untreated, GERD can cause significant conditions such as ulcers, inflammation of the esophagus, bleeding, difficulty breathing, and damaged teeth. GERD can also cause a precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus. This occurs in approximately 3.5 to seven percent of patients. Men develop Barrett's esophagus four times more frequently than women do.

* Certain medications and foods may worsen GERD by causing relaxation of the lower esophageal sphincter.

* Smoking weakens the lower esophageal sphincter allowing acid to reflux into the esophagus.

* Chest pain should never be assumed to be just heartburn, but should always be considered a possible sign of a heart condition such as a myocardial infarction, also known as a heart attack.

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Editorial Staff of the National Women's Health Resource Center 2002/12/01 2005/03/16 Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the abnormal backflow of stomach acid up into the esophagus, the long, muscular tube that connects the back of the mouth to the stomach. Acid Laryngitis,acid regurgitation,Barrett's esophagus,Esophageal strictures,Esophagitis,Gastroesophageal reflux disease,GERD,Reflux dyspareunia
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Publication:NWHRC Health Center - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
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Date:Mar 16, 2005
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