Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is generally a lifelong illness that affects many people, but its significance is often underestimated. Chronic abnormal gastric reflux results in erosive esophagitis in up to 60% of patients with GERD. Esophageal stricture, Barrett’s esophagus, and esophageal adenocarcinoma are the most serious complications of GERD. Although heartburn and acid regurgitation are the most common complaints, extraesophageal symptoms such as noncardiac chest pain, laryngitis, coughing, and wheezing can be manifestations of GERD.
Unfortunately, the severity of symptoms is not a reliable indicator of the severity of erosive esophagitis. Endoscopy is the preferred method to diagnose and grade erosive esophagitis, and various classification systems are used to grade disease severity. The Los Angeles Classification is a valid and widely accepted system to evaluate the severity of erosive esophagitis.
The immediate goals of treatment are to provide effective symptomatic relief and to achieve healing in patients with esophageal damage. The treatment regimen often begins by prescribing a therapy to reduce gastric acid secretion. A proton pump inhibitor is the preferred agent for many patients. Because GERD is a chronic, relapsing disease, long-term maintenance therapy is usually necessary to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, and improve the quality of life in patients with GERD.