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Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) - What Happens

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may cause irritation or inflammation in the esophagus, the tube that connects the throat to the stomach. This condition is called esophagitis camera.gif. GERD without esophagitis is sometimes called nonerosive reflux disease.

If you have mild GERD symptoms—an uncomfortable feeling of burning, warmth, heat, or pain just behind the breastbone—you may be able to treat yourself with nonprescription medicines that reduce or block acid.

Advanced GERD can cause complications such as:

  • Severe inflammation of the lining of the esophagus (esophagitis), esophageal erosion, and ulcers.
  • Narrowing of the esophagus.
  • Barrett's esophagus, in which the cells that line the inside of the esophagus are replaced by cells similar to those that line the inside of the stomach and intestine. Barrett's esophagus is not common, but it can lead to cancer of the esophagus.
  • Respiratory problems, such as a persistent cough, asthma, pneumonia, and laryngitis.
  • The speeding up of tooth decay, because stomach acid gets into the mouth and wears away tooth enamel.

Some people who have GERD may be at increased risk for cancer of the esophagus.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 06, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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