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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a digestive disease that occurs when stomach contents and acid move up the esophagus and back into the mouth. An estimated 1 in 5 people suffer from GERD.

Common GERD symptoms include heartburn, trouble swallowing, and an unpleasant acidic taste in the mouth. Patients commonly experience GERD after a meal.

Lifestyle causes of GERD include alcohol, smoking, and foods high in saturated and trans fats. Overweight individuals are more likely to develop GERD. Certain prescription medications may exacerbate or increase the frequency of GERD in patients.

GERD can be treated through changes in diet and prescription medication. Patients who experience GERD while sleeping are often encouraged to elevate their head to prevent stomach contents from moving upwards. Surgical options are available for serious cases of GERD.

Why is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) important in healthcare?

If left untreated, GERD has the potential to lead to a serious condition called Barrett’s Esophagus, where the lining of the esophagus thickens due to frequent exposure to stomach acid. Not all individuals who suffer from GERD have noticeable or serious symptoms, meaning not everyone seeks treatment until complications get serious. To provide better patient care, healthcare professionals may need to ask about GERD symptoms directly, especially in at-risk individuals, based on lifestyle factors, and clearly communicate possible side effects.