Introduction to GERD
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is very common, affecting up to 1 in 5 or more of adult men and women in the U.S. population. It also occurs in children. Although common, the disease often is unrecognized – its symptoms misunderstood. This is unfortunate because GERD is generally a treatable disease, though serious complications can result if it is not treated properly.
Heartburn is the most frequent – but not the only – symptom of GERD. (The disease may be present even without apparent symptoms.) Heartburn is not specific to GERD and can result from other disorders that occur inside and outside the esophagus. All too often, GERD is either self-treated or mistreated.
GERD is a chronic disease. Treatment usually must be maintained on a long-term basis, even after symptoms have been brought under control. Issues of daily living and compliance with long-term use of medication need to be addressed as well. This can be accomplished through follow-up and education.
GERD is often characterized by painful symptoms that can undermine an individual’s quality of life. Various methods to effectively treat GERD range from lifestyle measures to the use of medication or surgical procedures.
It is essential for individuals who suffer the chronic and recurrent symptoms of GERD to seek an accurate diagnosis, to work with their physician, and to receive the most effective treatment available.
What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is a very common disorder. Gastroesophageal refers to the stomach and the esophagus. Reflux refers to the back-flow of acidic or non-acidic stomach contents into the esophagus.
GERD is characterized by symptoms, with or without tissue damage, that result from repeated or prolonged exposure of the lining of the esophagus to acidic or non-acidic contents from the stomach. If tissue damage is present, the individual is said to have esophagitis or erosive GERD. The presence of symptoms with no evident tissue damage is referred to as non-erosive GERD.
GERD is often accompanied by symptoms such as heartburn and regurgitation of acid. But sometimes there are no apparent symptoms, and the presence of GERD is revealed only when complications become evident.