Important new data have established symptomatic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) as a disorder in its own right. Despite major advances in management, this disorder still presents many challenges. With the absence of visible disease (i.e., esophageal erosions), symptom relief must be a primary aim in treating patients with symptomatic GERD; in particular, reflux patients suffer from several different symptoms, but relief of heartburn and acid regurgitation should be the principal concern in clinical practice. Epigastric pain and other upper GI symptoms usually improve with active treatment. From a methodological standpoint, complete symptom relief is an attractive outcome measure. However, not all patients expect complete absence of symptoms in the long term, and many reflux patients are willing to continue a treatment strategy that provides substantial but less than absolute symptom control. Patients with symptomatic GERD have significantly impaired health-related quality of life (HRQOL) which, when heartburn is resolved, often improves to levels equal to or better than that found in the normal, healthy population. However, some reflux sufferers may not report symptoms and have apparently normal HRQOL measures owing only to the fact that they self-impose rigorous lifestyle restrictions to prevent heartburn - restrictions that may, in turn, eventually lead to HRQOL impairment. A full and complete evaluation of treatment success should be able to detect this pattern. Data on the long-term prognosis and risk of complications associated with treatment for symptomatic GERD are scarce and incomplete. However, the prevention of erosive esophageal damage, strictures, and adenocarcinoma should be a goal of long-term treatment success, even in symptomatic GERD.