More than one-third of Americans have heartburn at least once a month, with 10
percent experiencing it nearly every day. A recent survey revealed that 65
percent of people with heartburn may have symptoms both during the day and at
with 75 percent of the nighttime heartburn patients saying that the
problem keeps them from sleeping, and 40 percent reporting that nighttime
heartburn affects their job performance the following day. This epidemic leads
people to spend nearly $2 billion a year on over-the-counter (OTC) antacids
alone. Clearly, it's a major problem.
Heartburn is common, and an occasional episode is generally nothing to worry about. However, many people battle heartburn regularly, even daily. Frequent heartburn can be a serious problem, and it deserves medical attention. Frequent or constant heartburn is the most common symptom of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a disease in which stomach acid or, occasionally, bile flows back (refluxes) into your food pipe (esophagus). This constant backwash of acid can irritate the lining of your esophagus, causing it to be irritated and inflamed.
GERD occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) does not close properly and stomach contents leak back, or reflux, into the esophagus. The LES is a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts like a valve between the esophagus and stomach. The esophagus carries food from the mouth to the stomach.
When refluxed stomach acid touches the lining of the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn. The fluid may even be tasted in the back of the mouth, and this is called acid indigestion. Occasional heartburn is common but does not necessarily mean one has GERD. Heartburn that occurs more than twice a week may be considered GERD, and it can eventually lead to more serious health problems.
Learn more about GERD by clicking on one of the topics below.
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