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What is GERD?

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). GERD is a condition caused by stomach contents, including acid, repeatedly refluxing (coming up) into the esophagus. This causes irritation and other changes to the lining of the esophagus. If left untreated, GERD can result in complications such as inflammation of the esophageal lining, narrowing of the esophagus and esophageal cancer.

GERD is a lifetime disease. The severity of symptoms will usually increase over time. GERD can disrupt daily activities, be responsible for sleep disturbances as well as decrease work productivity. GERD can cause many other symptoms including chest pain, regurgitation, swallowing troubles, chronic cough, hoarseness or sore throat. Other symptoms may include: nausea, bad breath, vomiting, bloating, belching and even sleep difficulties. Even when on medication and symptoms are not prevalent, acid reflux may be silently taking its toll.

Nearly everyone has suffered from heartburn after a spicy meal or during times of stress. Some people are affected frequently, from monthly to weekly to daily. Many have suffered for years without the benefit of a full evaluation.

GERD occurs when the valve located between the esophagus and the stomach malfunctions. This valve is called the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) and should work as a one-way valve preventing stomach content from coming back up into the esophagus. In people with GERD, the malfunctioning valve allows stomach content to come back up, or reflux into the esophagus. This causes heartburn and/or other symptoms.

Here are a few facts about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD):

  • One-third of the population suffers from symptoms of GERD.
  • 18 to 20 million people experience daily heartburn.
  • Left untreated, GERD can lead to a number of problems, including esophageal cancer.
  • GERD affects work and sleep: 63 percent of people say it impacts work performance and 34 percent say they sleep in chairs.
  • Incidence of esophageal cancer has increased 600 percent since 1975.

Could your symptoms be GERD?

Don’t let chronic heartburn disrupt your life. Learn about specific steps you can take to find relief from both the cause and the symptoms of GERD. Our on-staff expert, Heartburn Center Nurse Coordinator, Tonya Mundy, R.N., is here to offer you a free consultation. Contact Tonya today at (740) 689-6486, or email tonyam@fmchealth.org.