Every year, 60 million adults suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disorder, commonly referred to as GERD. GERD, a condition where stomach acids reflux or "back up" from the stomach into the esophagus, can cause a variety of symptoms including heart burn, chest pain and indigestion.
Some people develop GERD because they are born with a naturally weak lower esophageal sphincter, which acts like a one-way valve, allowing food to pass through into the stomach. Normally, the LES closes immediately after swallowing to prevent back-up of stomach juices, which have high acidic content, into the esophagus. In people suffering from GERD, the LES does not function properly, leading to irritation and inflammation of the esophagus. GERD also can be caused by eating fatty and spicy foods, taking certain types of medication, smoking and drinking alcohol. The condition also can be aggravated by changes in body position -- bending over or lying down, which may cause the LES to relax and cause reflux.
Research has shown that medications typically prescribed to treat GERD including Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac, Nexium, Prilosec and Protonix lose their effectiveness over time. They also do not treat the underlying causes of reflex -- so a patient is required to be on medication for life. Additionally, studies have shown that some of these medicines can have adverse effects -- particularly hip fractures in women.
A patient with severe GERD may need to seek surgical treatment.
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