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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 (approximately one-third of heartburn sufferers), the acid damages the esophageal lining, a condition called erosive esophagitis. However, most patients with heartburn or acid regurgitation have a normal esophagus on endoscopy, a condition known as NERD (non-erosive reflux disease) or ENRD (endoscopy-negative reflux disease).

The lower esophageal sphincter is normally closed after a meal. When this sphincter relaxes (opens) 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 affect about 20 to 40 percent of the population. 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, lung problems and damaged teeth. GERD can also cause a precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus. This occurs in approximately three to seven percent of patients. Men develop Barrett's esophagus four times more frequently than women do. Most people with Barrett's don't develop cancer, but because of increased risk, should undergo surveillance with endoscopy every two to three years.

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.

References

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Keywords: gastroesophageal reflux disease, gerd, heartburn, symptoms of gerd, barrett's esophagus, women
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Date:Mar 13, 2007
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