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Gastroesophageal reflux disease: then and now.

Although Galen first described esophagitis almost 2000 years ago, its relation to acid was only recognized in the 19th century by Rokitansky. Considerably more interest in the symptoms and complications of esophagitis has been evident over the last century, as gastroesophageal reflux disease displaced peptic ulceration and became the principal acid-related disease of our times. Of particular interest has been the recognition of the clinical significance of the previously overlooked extraesophageal manifestations of the disease such as laryngitis, asthma, and sleep disturbance. The evolution of highly effective medical therapy has over the last decade drastically reduced the need for surgical intervention for control of symptoms except under select conditions, especially volume-related reflux and children with refractory symptoms. The proton pump inhibitor class of drugs is indisputably the most effective overall form of management, while individual proton pump inhibitors appear to be equivalent in their efficacy. Issues that remain to be resolved include the management of nonerosive gastroesophageal reflux disease, the long-term dependence of many patients on acid-suppressing medication, and the recognition of atypical manifestations and rare but serious complications of gastroesophageal reflux disease. In this respect, Barrett's esophagus still presents a major biologic and management conundrum for the physicians and scientists alike.

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