The term "symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux disease" (GERD) refers to those patients who present with the typical GERD symptoms of heartburn and regurgitation, yet do not have endoscopic evidence of esophagitis. The primary goals of managing symptomatic GERD are to control symptoms and improve quality of life. A clinical assessment of the GERD patient can identify important clinical features, such as atypical and extraesophageal symptoms for which acid-suppressive agents tend to be less effective. Performing an endoscopy can further identify the patient as having non-erosive reflux disease, erosive esophagitis, or Barrett's esophagus - diagnoses which can help determine treatment but may not prove predictive of therapeutic response. Determining acid exposure through pH testing can predict therapeutic response, with those revealing an abnormal acid exposure time being more responsive to acid-suppressive therapy. However, the performance of an endoscopy and pH testing on each patient is clearly not practical. Whereas the natural history of symptomatic GERD is still largely undefined, acid-suppressive therapy appears to be the best approach available for both the short-term and long-term management of this disease.
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