It’s not unusual to feel a painful burning sensation in your chest after you eat. However, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) if your acid reflux occurs regularly. This disease affects millions of people across the world and yet many of them have never heard of the condition and don’t know much about the recommendation to reduce their risk factors.
cases of GERD globally in 2019 (1)
estimated global prevalence (2)
GERD is a common clinical problem with significant morbidity and potentially decreased quality of life. Early recognition of symptoms is integral to preventing complications of GERD. Behavioral changes and advances in acid suppression remain integral to its treatment (3).
Left untreated, GERD can result in several serious complications (3):
People affected by GERD can also develop complications in the mouth, throat, and lungs, such as asthma and chronic cough.
GERD is usually curable. Some people try to modify their lifestyle, while others find relief in over-the-counter medications and other take antacids.
The goals of treatment in reflux disease, independent of presenting symptom, are to relieve symptoms, heal esophagitis, and prevent recurrence of symptoms and future complications. Some options to achieve these goals include endoscopic antireflux procedures, and sometimes surgical interventions (5).
Successful treatment of GERD symptoms has been associated with significant improvement in quality of life, including decreased physical pain, increased vitality, physical and social function, and emotional well-being (3).
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Lifestyle modification measures including avoidance of refluxogenic foods, food avoidance for at least 2–3 hours before recumbency, positional changes during the sleep period, and weight loss have been proposed for management of GERD. Late evening meals have been shown to contribute to reflux. Head of bed elevation as well as left lateral decubitus position have been shown to improve nocturnal esophageal acid exposure (6)
Seek immediate medical care if you have chest pain, especially if you also have shortness of breath, or jaw or arm pain. These may be signs and symptoms of a heart attack (4)
Make an appointment with your doctor if you (4):
GERD is usually diagnosed clinically with classic symptoms and response to acid suppression. The most utilized diagnostic test for the evaluation of GERD and its possible complications is the upper gastrointestinal endoscopy, or esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD). The primary benefit of endoscopy is direct visualization of the esophageal mucosa. Ambulatory pH monitoring is considered the gold standard in the diagnosis of acid reflux (1).
Last update: 15 May 2023
1. Global, regional and national burden of gastroesophageal reflux disease, 1990–2019: update from the GBD 2019 study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9122392/#:~:text=Results,%2C%20and%2077.19%25%2C%20respectively accessed 15.05.2023
2. Sawyer, M. A., MD. (n.d.). Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) Imaging: Practice Essentials, Radiography, Nuclear Imaging. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/368861-overview accessed 11.05.2023
3. Clarrett DM, Hachem C. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). Mo Med. 2018 May-Jun;115(3):214-218. PMID: 30228725; PMCID: PMC6140167.
4. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic. (2023, January 4). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gerd/symptoms-causes/syc-20361940 accessed 11.05.2023
5. Vaezi MF, Katzka D, Zerbib F. Extraesophageal Symptoms and Diseases Attributed to GERD: Where is the Pendulum Swinging Now? Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2018 Jul;16(7):1018-1029. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2018.02.001. Epub 2018 Feb 7. PMID: 29427733.
6. Chen JW, Vela MF, Peterson KA, Carlson DA. AGA Clinical Practice Update on the Diagnosis and Management of Extraesophageal Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease: Expert Review. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2023 Apr 13:S1542-3565(23)00143-X. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2023.01.040. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37061897.