Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is one of the most common digestive disorders in the world.
It happens when acid comes up from the stomach, which is acid-resistant, into the esophagus, which is less acid-resistant.
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Heartburn — it's the cardinal symptom of GERD.
"GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, is when you get acid and chemical damage to the lining of the esophagus," says Dr. East.
You might feel a lump in the throat, have difficulty swallowing, have chest pain, a cough, or have worsening asthma-type symptoms.
"Complications of GERD include esophagitis, inflammation in the bottom of the esophagus," says Dr. East. "If this is persistent, you can develop scarring and a stricture."
But if it's persistent and heals, the lining of the esophagus can change to a more acid-resistant form, which is Barrett's esophagus.
"Barrett's esophagus is a reasonably common complication of GERD," he says.
It affects 10% to 15% of people with GERD. And a much smaller group faces another risk, says Dr. East.
"About 1 in 200 patients with Barrett's esophagus per year will develop esophageal adenocarcinoma."
"If you have severe or frequent GERD, you should seek medical advice," advises Dr. East.