Over 60 million Americans experience heartburn each month, making it one of the most prevalent digestive complaints in the country. Heartburn is not a disease, and there is nothing to be done about it. Rather, it is a clear sign of acid reflux. If someone experiences frequent acid reflux symptoms, they likely have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
It may be difficult to distinguish between heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD because they will all feel the same at the time. However, being aware of the variations will help someone choose the right course of action.
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Difference Between Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD
Heartburn is a symptom and not a medical problem. It speaks of the mild to severe burning agony felt in the throat or chest as stomach acid rises into the esophagus. Heartburn discomfort generally rises to the throat and feels dull, sharp, or tight. Some people say the discomfort feels like something is stuck beneath the bone.
When the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) weakens, stomach acid can flow back to the esophagus, causing acid reflux. Once it is working properly, the LES contracts to close the opening between the esophagus and the abdomen. Gastric acid and digestible food can flow back into the esophagus if the muscle is weak or fails to tighten appropriately. Coughing, a sour throat, a bitter aftertaste in the mouth, and burning in the chest and throat are some common acid reflux symptoms.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Acid reflux is identified as GERD when it occurs more than twice weekly. Long-term contact with gastric acid causes inflammation and raises the possibility of damaging the tissue in the passageways, which could lead to cancer. GERD symptoms include heartburn, foul breath, regurgitation, enamel damage, dry cough, and difficulty swallowing.
Now that you know the difference between all three, identify your problem and seek medical attention.