Severe, Late-night or Recurrent Heartburn May be a Symptom of GERD Holiday Heartburn Opens Dialogue During GERD Awareness Week
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Milwaukee, WI (November, 2002) - For many Americans, Thanksgiving images include turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and the inevitable heartburn that follows. In fact, an estimated 20 percent of Americans suffer from heartburn annually. But severe or repeated heartburn could be a sign of a more serious but commonly overlooked disorder - Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, commonly known as GERD.
GERD affects more than 21 million Americans and occurs when there is an abnormal backflow or reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus because the muscle between the two does not close properly. This Thanksgiving week marks the fourth annual GERD Awareness Week, supported by the International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD).
"With proper medical attention, GERD is often a treatable and manageable disease," said IFFGD Founder and President Nancy Norton. "Our goal is to help people to distinguish between common heartburn and GERD and to point people with these symptoms to a physician's office for proper evaluation."
Chronic heartburn is the most common symptom of GERD, driving many sufferers to use over-the-counter medications for temporary relief. Burning sensations in the back of the throat or mouth, especially after meals, can also be a sign of GERD.
IFFGD suggests medical evaluation for people who experience the following symptoms:
- Heartburn more than once a week
- Severe heartburn
- Heartburn that occurs predominantly in the evening or wakes a person from sleep
- Heartburn coupled with difficult or painful swallowing
- Sour or bitter-tasting fluid entering the mouth from the throat (regurgitation)
- Occasional fullness or discomfort in the upper abdomen and nausea
- Frequent belching or burping
- Symptoms that get worse after a person eats, bends over or lies down
Most GERD is easily manageable through lifestyle changes and prescription medications. However, if ignored or not treated properly, GERD can lead to serious complications.
"Two and a half million people go to the emergency room every year because they experience non-cardiac chest pain, and over half are diagnosed with GERD," Norton said. "It's vital to increase awareness of the condition and let people know that treatment is available."
IFFGD maintains a Heartburn Helpline (1-888-964-2001) for additional information on GERD. They also provide a complimentary 7-Day Diary to keep track of specific food items and circumstances related to episodes of heartburn.
IFFGD is a nonprofit education and research organization whose mission it is to inform, assist and support those affected by gastrointestinal disorders. With an international group of experts from multiple disciplines who serve on the organization's medical advisory board, the IFFGD is a resource for anyone seeking current information about gastrointestinal disorders for both adults and children. For more information, please visit www.iffgd.org.