What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is abnormally frequent or chronic reflux, with symptoms typically surfacing twice or more per week. It is the most common gastrointestinal-related diagnosis given by physicians during clinical visits in the U.S. When left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as changes to esophageal structure or Barrett’s esophagus.
GERD affects people differently and involves symptoms which vary from mild to moderate or severe. Mild sufferers may experience occasional bouts of heartburn. More severe patients can experience heartburn daily. Other patients never experience heartburn, but may have symptoms such as asthma, chronic cough, hoarseness, or chest pain due to persistent reflux.
Treatment for GERD varies from person to person depending on the severity of symptoms: mild sufferers may experience relief by implementing simple lifestyle changes, while others can control symptoms through medication therapy.
People who experience more invasive symptoms of GERD consistently may require or opt for surgery. It is important to remember that GERD is a chronic disease that usually requires lifetime management to control symptoms if left untreated.
What is acid reflux?
Acid reflux, commonly experienced as heartburn or regurgitation, occurs when stomach fluids back up, or reflux, into the esophagus, exposing it to gastric acid and other contents. While occasional reflux is normal, for some it can be frequent and severe enough to impact daily life.
How does chronic acid reflux impact your daily life?
It is estimated that pain and discomfort from acid reflux impacts over 80 million people at least once per month in the U.S. alone. GERD can impact a patient’s life in some of the following ways:
- Persistent Typical and Atypical Symptoms: May result in heartburn, chest pain, sore throat and other symptoms despite medication.
- Sleeping Positions: Nighttime reflux can compromise sleep for people who sleep in a typical horizontal position. This can affect alertness and productivity the following day.
- Diet: Dietary restrictions including regimented timing of meals and the need to avoid consuming foods and beverages that trigger reflux.
- Additional Healthcare Costs and Work Productivity: Costs associated with GERD can reach thousands of dollars annually in medications and lost productivity from work.
What happens if you don’t treat chronic acid reflux?
Chronic, prolonged exposure to reflux may result in inflammation, irritation, or swelling of the esophagus. This condition, known as esophagitis, can be accompanied by more concerning complications such as ulcers, hemorrhage, or precancerous cellular changes.
While symptoms alone can significantly interfere with one’s quality of life, GERD is also associated with the development of Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that causes a cellular change in the lining of the lower esophagus. In a percentage of patients, it can progress to esophageal cancer, a potentially life-threatening illness. To avoid this and additional potential complications, it is important to take GERD symptoms seriously and seek treatment from a healthcare professional as soon as possible.
Having heartburn or acid reflux from time to time is normal; having it frequently interrupt your life is not. If you suffer symptoms of reflux more than twice a week, you may have GERD. Take the GERD-HRQL survey if you suspect a problem and bring the results to your doctor for a GERD evaluation.
 Data on file at EndoGastric Solutions
 Brook RA, et al. Cost of gastro-oesophageal reflux disease to the employer: a perspective from the United States. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2007; 26: 889-898.