The Role of Esophageal Hypersensitivity in Functional Heartburn

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Functional heartburn (FH) is defined as a functional esophageal disorder characterized by symptoms of chronic heartburn with no apparent correlation to acid or nonacid reflux. In addition, its symptoms persist despite the lack of organic abnormalities or inflammation, esophageal motility disorders, or metabolic disorders. Although conditions presenting with esophageal symptoms without endoscopic abnormalities were previously categorized as nonerosive reflux disease, such conditions are now classified into 3 categories under Rome IV criteria: nonerosive reflux disease, reflux hypersensitivity, and FH. Although many aspects of FH remain unclear, its onset mechanism is considered to be strongly associated with peripheral or central sensitization, given the fact that its symptoms seem to be unrelated to gastroesophageal reflux. In addition, the cause of such hypersensitivity is an interesting topic in itself, and psychological factors, such as stress followed by increasing esophageal permeability are gaining attention as factors that can potentially influence this condition. There is a great unmet clinical need for therapeutic drugs that can be used to treat FH, and the development of novel drugs, diagnostic tests and biomarkers is eagerly awaited.

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