The terms heartburn and GERD are often used interchangeably, but they have very different meanings.
The burning pain characteristic of heartburn has nothing to do with your heart. It involves the digestive system. Back flow of stomach acid into the esophagus causes irritation of the delicate esophageal lining which is experienced as burning in the chest that in some cases may move up to the throat or may be located behind the breast bone. Heartburn may be felt immediately after eating, when bending over, or when lying down.
Heartburn is a very common symptom with more than 60 million Americans experiencing heartburn once a month. When heartburn is mild and infrequent, it can be managed with antacids, avoiding acidic or spicy foods, smoking cessation, and losing weight.
However, if you find yourself resorting to antacids more than a couple of times a week, your heartburn symptoms may be an indication of a more severe problem - GERD.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic condition characterized by reflux or back flow of stomach acid into the esophagus more than twice a week. This can cause inflammation and long-term damage of the esophageal lining leading to precancerous changes in the esophagus, a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus. Antacids and other over-the-counter medication may prove ineffective in treating symptoms which may include bad breath, chest pain, sour taste in the mouth, persistent dry cough, and trouble swallowing.
GERD can progressively damage the esophagus resulting in bleeding, ulcers, scarring, and even cancer.
If you do not find relief for your heartburn symptoms with the above-mentioned remedies, you should visit your doctor or a gastroenterologist for a checkup.
Greater Houston Gastroenterology provides specialized services and treatments for a wide range of gastrointestinal conditions in TheWoodlands, Sugar Land and Spring, TX. Call us today for an appointment.