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Heartburn/GERD Overview

Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD occurs when stomach acid refluxes or moves backward into the esophagus and possibly higher into the mouth or airway structures. Heartburn is a key symptom of GERD

Stomach acid helps digest the food we eat. The lining of the stomach is built to handle the strong acid it produces. However, the cells lining the esophagus are different. This is the reason why the back flow of acid irritates the esophagus and causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat known as heartburn.

GERD can strike people of all ages, but statistics show that the risk increases with age and dramatically rises after age 40. About 10 percent of Americans have episodes of heartburn every day, and 44 percent have symptoms at least once a month. It has been estimated that GERD affects 25 to 35 percent of the U.S. Population. GERD has a significant economic impact because it affects many people. Based on an American Gastrointestinal Association study, GERD is the most costly digestive disease, with an annual cost of $10 billion. Many people with GERD report loss of work productivity. In addition, this disease also has considerable effects on one's quality of life.

GERD may lead to more serious health problems. Over time, the reflux of stomach acid may damage the lining of the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. If left untreated, GERD can permanently damage the esophagus and sometimes can even lead to cancer.

If you suspect you may have GERD, you should consult a doctor to confirm the diagnosis. There are many ways to treat this health problem. The risk of complications can be reduced by making lifestyle and diet modifications. Your doctor will recommend the treatment option that would work best for you.


Burns,D., Shah, N. 100. 2007.Questions & Answers about Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (Gerd): A Lahey Clinic Guide. Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Fass,R.2003. Gerd/Dyspepsia - Hot Topics. Hanley & Belfus

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