Thursday, 26 July 2007

Acid reflux disease: Real and treatable

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We've all probably had acid reflux, otherwise known as "heartburn," from time to time, perhaps after eating too much or eating certain types of food. However, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a serious, chronic disease for some individuals, and overeating is not the only cause.

According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House of the NIH, the causes of GERD remain unclear. Research shows that in individuals with GERD, the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes while the rest of the esophagus is working. In addition, anatomical abnormalities such as a hiatal hernia may also contribute and such hernias can occur at any age.

Other factors that may contribute are obesity, pregnancy, smoking and certain foods.

Chronic GERD that goes without treatment can cause serious complications such as damage, bleeding or ulcers on the lining of the esophagus or narrowing of the esophagus. Some people can develop Barrett's esophagus, in which the cells in the esophageal lining change and can eventually turn into esophageal cancer, which is usually fatal.

You do not need to have classic "heartburn" symptoms to have GERD; other symptoms include a dry cough, asthma symptoms or trouble swallowing. If you have been using antacids for more than two weeks, it's time to see a doctor.

Acid reflux is real and treatable. If you or someone you love experiences chronic heartburn, make sure you see your physician or a gastroenterologist for treatment.
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