It is important to recognize that gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a disease that should not be ignored or self-treated. Heartburn, the most frequent symptom, is so common that its significance may be underestimated, casually dismissed, and not associated with a disease – like GERD.

In studies that measure emotional well-being, people with unresolved GERD often report worse scores than those with other chronic diseases, like diabetes, high blood pressure, peptic ulcer, or angina. Yet, nearly half of acid reflux sufferers do not recognize it as a disease.

"GERD is a disease. It is not caused by lifestyle decisions".

It is usually accompanied by obvious common symptoms but may occur in the absence of obvious symptoms. If ignored or not appropriately treated, it can lead to more serious complications. Most people with GERD have mild disease that can be controlled through lifestyle changes and medication.

If you suspect you may have GERD, the first step is to consult a physician to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Recognize that GERD is a generally treatable disease. Then work in partnership with your physician to initiate the best available treatment plan for you.

To find out more about living with GERD, contact IFFGD.

Adapted from IFFGD Publication: GERD Questions and Answers. Revised 2010 by Ronnie Fass, MD, Chair, Division of GI and Hepatology, Metro Health Medical Center, Cleveland, OH. Original Contributors: Joel E. Richter, MD, Philip O. Katz, MD, and J. Patrick Waring, M.D. Editor: William F. Norton, International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders, Milwaukee, WI.