As your guide, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions regarding GERD and Barrett’s esophagus. Both FAQs are also available to download.

gerd faq

GERD stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease. With GERD, stomach contents (food or liquid) leak backwards from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube from the mouth to the stomach). This action can irritate the esophagus, causing heartburn and other symptoms.

There are several symptoms associated with GERD, some common and others less common. However, patients with GERD experience worrisome symptoms, which can include the following:1,2

  • Chronic heartburn
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Gas and bloating
  • Regurgitation
  • Chronic cough
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Intolerance of certain foods
  • Difficulty sleeping

The more risk factors an individual has for GERD, the greater they are at risk of developing the disease. The risk factors commonly seen in GERD patients include:3,4

  • Obesity
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Pregnancy
  • Scleroderma
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Consumption of tobacco
  • Respiratory diseases

GERD affects up to 40% of the U.S. population in their lifetime.5

Your doctor may be able to diagnose GERD from your description of symptoms, but may also suggest tests to evaluate your condition and determine the best treatment plan.

Three tests your doctor may consider for suspected or confirmed GERD are esophageal pH monitoring, endoscopy, and manometry. With pH monitoring, your doctor measures the amount of acid in your esophagus over a 24- to 96-hour period. Endoscopy uses a flexible tube with a light and video camera on the end to visualize the esophagus. And manometry assesses the function necessary for proper swallowing.

GERD can be treated with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding foods that trigger symptoms. Prescription and over-the-counter medicines like proton pump inhibitors can lower the amount of acid released in your stomach. For patients who do not respond to lifestyle changes and medication, anti-reflux procedures may also be an option.

Left undiagnosed and untreated, chronic GERD can increase the risk for Barrett’s esophagus.

Barrett’s Esophagus Faq

Barrett’s esophagus is a precancerous disease that affects the lining of the esophagus.4 It occurs when stomach acids and enzymes inappropriately enter the esophagus over time and cause the cells to change, also known as intestinal metaplasia.6

People with Barrett’s esophagus typically do not experience specific symptoms related to the disease itself. Because of this, it is important to speak to your doctor if you have risk factors for this disease.

Patients with GERD are at an increased risk for developing Barrett’s esophagus. It is not common in children, but occurs twice as much in men than in women. Caucasian males over the age of 50 with chronic reflux symptoms or heartburn are at increased risk for the disease.7 Additional risk factors include:

  • Older age
  • Caucasian race
  • Male gender
  • Chronic heartburn
  • Hiatal hernia
  • Erosive esophagitis
  • Tobacco use
  • Family history
  • Obesity with intra-abdominal fat distribution

Barrett’s esophagus has been diagnosed in approximately 1.5 million adults in the United States.8 However, it is estimated that 10.5 million people have Barrett’s esophagus but have not been diagnosed.8

A physician must visualize the disease and take biopsies to confirm a diagnosis of Barrett’s esophagus.

Several methods are available if treatment is needed. One method is the Barrx™ radiofrequency ablation system, which has been shown to reduce disease progression. It does this by removing precancerous tissue (called dysplastic Barrett’s esophagus) from the esophagus with consistent depth of ablation. One study showed that among patients with confirmed low-grade dysplasia, radiofrequency ablation resulted in an absolute risk reduction of 25% and a relative risk reduction of 94% in progression to high-grade dysplasia or esophageal adenocarcinoma over the duration of the study when compared to the control (surveillance) group.9

As a precancerous disease, early detection and management of Barrett’s esophagus is important. In one study, 26.5% of the patients with Barrett’s esophagus and confirmed low-grade dysplasia that were not treated progressed to high-grade dysplasia or esophageal cancer within three years.9