Understanding Acid Reflux Disease (GERD)
For most people, an occasional bout of heartburn after certain types of food or drink is a normal, though unpleasant sensation.
However, when heartburn occurs frequently and chronically, it is referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and is a painful and potentially serious condition.
As many as 60 million Americans experience acid reflux symptoms at least once a month. For these people, simple dietary and lifestyle changes are all that is required to reduce or eliminate their symptoms.
It is estimated that about 14 million Americans experience GERD symptoms daily. These people require more extensive diagnosis of reflux disease and treatment to help them find long-term solutions and avoid permanent damage.
Complications of GERD
Without treatment, chronic GERD can result in serious complications. The most frequent is damage to the lining of the esophagus from repeated exposure to stomach acid. Inflammation and ulceration, called esophagitis, can cause scarring and narrowing of the esophagus which leads to difficulty swallowing.
Chronic GERD can also lead to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. After long-term exposure to the acid and digestive enzymes of the stomach, normal cells in the esophageal wall are replaced with abnormal cells which have been linked with esophageal cancer.