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What You Need to Know About Acid Reflux Disease and GERD

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Updated June 27, 2014

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Whether you suspect you suffer from acid reflux disease (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease - GERD) or you are newly diagnosed, you will want to know the symptoms, the causes, and the treatments of GERD.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also referred to as acid reflux disease, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and stomach contents reflux back up into the esophagus.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux
Heartburn and acid regurgitation are the main symptoms of GERD, though some people with GERD don't experience any heartburn episodes. Symptoms of heartburn are the most common, and frequent, when someone suffers from acid reflux, other symptoms can be present as well. These include a chronic cough and hoarseness in the morning.

Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease
Only a small percentage of patients will need the tests to diagnose GERD. The majority of doctors will prescribe a trial of acid-suppressive therapy, and make a diagnosis based on the patient's response to this.

For some patients, GERD can cause erosive esophagitis, a condition that causes inflammation, swelling, or irritation of the esophagus. More than half of GERD patients, however, have a non-erosive type of GERD. With the non-erosive form of GERD, referred to as Nonerosive Reflux Disease (NERD), patients experience typical GERD symptoms caused by acid reflux, but they do not have visible esophageal injury.

There is a group of patients who continue to have symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux despite a standard treatment with proton pump inhibitors (PPIs). They have what is known as Refractory Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Refractory GERD). Patients who experience refractory GERD usually fall into one of two groups: Those who need more aggressive treatment, and those who have other causes of their reflux symptoms.

Treating / Preventing Acid Reflux
Your physician will usually suggest certain lifestyle modifications and dietary changes first. If you continue to have symptoms after these modifications, your physician will discuss with you the use of antacids neutralize stomach acid (which includes Rolaids, Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, and Gaviscon), H2 blockers (which includes Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac, and Axid), and Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) (which includes Prilosec, Prevacid, Nexium, Aciphex, and Protonix). 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.

Complications of Acid Reflux
If acid reflux disease is not treated effectively, the constant acid reflux can irritate the lining of the esophagus, and serious complication can occur. These complications can include Barrett's esophagus, erosive esophagitis, esophageal cancer, and esophageal strictures. There are several steps you can take that can drastically reduce your chances of developing one of these complications. These include lifestyle modifications and dietary changes.

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  5. GERD Basics
  6. Acid Reflux Disease and GERD - What You Need to Know

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