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Common and painful stomach condition called NERD

November 27, 2012 3:04:10 PM PST
Many of you might have heard of the stomach problem called GERD. It's when stomach acid bubbles up into the esophagus to cause heartburn. But heartburn may be caused by a related problem called N-E-R-D or Non-Erosive Reflux Disease.

Never heard of NERD? It's a funny name for a common and painful stomach condition with a variety of causes.

NERD can indeed come from acid squirting up into the esophagus. But other factors can be involved. And interestingly, young women are most at risk.

After eating perhaps too much at a holiday meal, you might expect a little heartburn. But for 22-year-old Andrea Holmgren, heartburn started when she was a kid.

This was caused from stomach acid dripping on the vocal cords. Looking into the stomach, doctors often find acid refluxing or squirting up into the esophagus. It can burn the esophagus, even causing ulcers or erosions in on the lining.

But Andrea's test showed no erosions at all. She had a condition called non-erosive reflux disease, or N-E-R-D, NERD.

People who have nerd don't develop erosions in their esophagus, but have symptoms of heartburn," Dr. Mitchell Spinnell at Englewood Hospital said.

As many as half of all patients with heartburn have NERD. They're generally young women, though anyone can be affected. Drugs called acid blockers often work in NERD patients, but not always.

Doctors then test to see if bile from the liver, which helps digest food, may be coming up through the stomach to irritate the esophagus.

About half of patients may have hypersensitivity, where normal esophagus muscle contractions cause pain. When no medicine works, surgery to tighten the muscle where the stomach joins the esophagus helps, but not in everyone.

Surgery can often work at first, and then half the time, fail years later. Stress often plays a role in nerd. Andrea has found that eliminating acid triggers such as caffeine has helped her. NERD may be news to you as a problem, but if you're having heartburn, your doctor will probably know about it.

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