MILWAUKEE, Nov. 15, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Occasional heartburn is quite common, especially after eating large meals during the holiday season. But, not all heartburn is the same. It is important to distinguish simple, occasional heartburn from long-standing heartburn that keeps recurring. Frequent, worsening, or persistent heartburn signals that it's time to see your doctor or healthcare provider to receive an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment. An underlying condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) could be the cause.
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GERD affects one in five or more adult men and women in the U.S. While the disease usually can be treated effectively, its symptoms often are unrecognized or misunderstood.
GERD occurs when stomach contents flow back (reflux) into the food pipe (esophagus). Repeated reflux can irritate the lining of the esophagus, cause uncomfortable symptoms, and possibly lead to complications such as tissue damage in the esophagus or difficulty swallowing. Most people with GERD have mild symptoms, with no visible evidence of tissue damage and little risk of developing complications.
Chronic heartburn is the most frequently reported symptom. But, because heartburn is so common, it may be self-treated or ignored. But self-treatment may delay effective treatment.
It is time to see a doctor if your heartburn:
- persists or becomes more severe
- happens at night and wakes you from sleep
- occurs two or more times a week
- has been occurring for five years or more, or
- creates pain that interferes with daily activities.
Regurgitation (refluxed material into the mouth) is another common symptom of GERD. Other symptoms may occur, such as trouble swallowing, sore throat, or hoarseness in the morning. Sometimes there are no apparent symptoms, and the presence of GERD is not revealed until complications appear.
A diagnosis of GERD should be made by a doctor. Symptoms usually can be reduced through lifestyle changes, medicines, surgery, or a combination of methods.
"Once diagnosed, GERD can be treated and, in most cases, people can begin to lead far more comfortable lives," said Nancy Norton, President of the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD). Often treatment involves dietary and other lifestyle changes. A doctor may also recommend medications, which can reduce the amount of acid the stomach produces. Other treatments may include surgery or endoscopic procedures to help prevent reflux.
Most people with GERD have a form of the disease that can be controlled. But GERD may lead to complications if left untreated. See a doctor to have symptoms checked and to develop an effective treatment plan for GERD.
November 2026, 2016 is National GERD Awareness Week. Learn more about GERD by visiting the IFFGD web site at: www.aboutGERD.org.
The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) is a nonprofit education and research organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people affected by chronic digestive conditions. Founded in 1991, IFFGD helps improve care by enhancing awareness, educating individuals, and supporting research into treatments and cures for GI disorders. Additional information about GERD and other chronic digestive disorders is available on IFFGD's website at www.iffgd.org.
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SOURCE International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD)