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Sharon Gillson

GERD Awareness Week

By November 18, 2012

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The 14th Annual GERD Awareness Week is November 18-24, 2012. And this week, like in years past, The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) is expanding its efforts to support GERD Awareness Week through public service and media outreach. IFFGD first designated GERD Awareness Week in November 1999.

Millions of people suffer from occasional heartburn, and it's more of a nuisance than a real health problem. For other individuals, heartburn is chronic, occurring two or more times a week. For them, their heartburn may be a symptom of a serious health problem: gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD.

GERD, especially if it's left untreated or it's not treated adequately, may result in complications. These complications can be erosive esophagitis (irritation or erosion), esophageal strictures, or in some cases Barrett's esophagus, which is a precancerous condition. Barrett's esophagus may lead to esophageal cancer.

You should see your doctor if your heartburn....

  • occurs two or more times a week
  • has become more severe
  • wakes you up at night
  • isn't relieved by over the counter medications
  • interferes with your daily life

Other symptoms that should send you to the doctor are:

  • you have neck, chest, or back pain (to rule out a heart attack)
  • you have difficulty swallowing
  • there's pain when you swallow
  • you have persistent hoarseness or sore throat
  • you have episodes of choking, coughing, or wheezing

GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and stomach contents reflux back up into the esophagus.

Heartburn and acid regurgitation are the main symptoms of GERD, though some people with GERD don't experience any heartburn episodes. This is why it's important to know all the possible symptoms of GERD.

While the majority of doctors will prescribe a trial of acid-suppressive therapy, and make a diagnosis based on the patient's response to this, there are tests to diagnose GERD a doctor may want to have performed.

Treatment for GERD will usually start with certain lifestyle modifications and dietary changes. If you continue to have symptoms after these modifications, your physician will discuss with you the use of antacids, H2 blockers, and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs). If your physician and you decide a surgical option is needed, the most common surgical treatment for GERD is the fundoplications surgery. Another procedure sometimes used in the treatment of GERD is the radiofrequency treatment.

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