NERD is a form of gastroesphageal reflux disease (GERD), which is the medical term for chronic heartburn. In some cases, GERD erodes the esophageal lining, a condition called esophagitis. Esophagitis is the condition that, in rare cases, leads to Barrett's Esophagus. NERD is GERD that does not cause esophagitis; however, that does not mean it is less serious than erosive reflux.
Most GERD patients do not have esophagitis, which makes nonerosive reflux the more common form of the disease. But that does not mean that NERD is more mild. NERD is more likely to have extra-esophageal complications, and is less likely to respond to fundoplication surgery. In one study, 56 percent of NERD patients, compared with 90 percent of patients with erosive reflux, reported that their symptoms were completely eliminated with fundoplication. NERD was also twice as likely to cause swallowing difficulties.
Heartburn has a number of potential causes, including hiatal hernia, lifestyle and diet. Many people simply adjust their behavior to deal with heartburn, but in some cases medication or surgery may be required.