The goals of GERD treatment are:

  • To bring the symptoms under control so that the individual feels better;
  • heal the esophagus of inflammation or injury;
  • manage or prevent complications such as Barrett's esophagus or stricture;
  • and maintain the symptoms of GERD in remission so that daily life is unaffected or minimally affected by reflux.

A diagnosis of GERD should be made by a physician. The disease can usually be diagnosed based on the presentation of symptoms alone. GERD can occur, however, with no apparent symptoms. Diagnostic tests may be used to confirm or exclude a diagnosis or to look for complications such as inflammation, stricture, or Barrett's esophagus.

GERD is a recurrent and chronic disease for which long-term medical therapy is usually effective. It is important to recognize that chronic reflux does not resolve itself. There is not yet a cure for GERD. Long-term and appropriate treatment is necessary.

Treatment options include lifestyle modifications, medications, surgery, or a combination of methods. Over-the-counter preparations provide only temporary symptom relief. They do not prevent recurrence of symptoms or allow an injured esophagus to heal. They should not be taken regularly as a substitute for prescription medicines – they may be hiding a more serious condition. If needed regularly, for more than two weeks, consult a physician for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

References

  1. Richter JE, Katz PO, Waring JP. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. IFFGD Brochure; GERD Questions and Answers.
  2. Thompson WG. Heartburn: nothing to do with the heart.
  3. El-Serag HB, Graham DY. Contemporary diagnosis and management of upper gastrointestinal diseases. Handbooks in Healthcare, Newtown, 2004.
  4. Pace F, Costamagna G, Penagini R, Repici A, Annese V. Review article: endoscopic antireflux procedures - an unfulfilled promise? Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2008 Mar 1;27(5):375-84. Epub 2007 Dec 20.

Further Reading from the Learning Center

  • Keeping a daily diary for a week can help keep track of specific food items and circumstances related to episodes of heartburn. The diary can serve as a vital tool to identify factors that worsen symptoms and when discussing symptoms with a physician. A printable version of IFFGD's 7-day Diary is available for download.
  • Medical definitions