Reflux or Heartburn

Submitted by Atlantic Gastroenterolgy on Wed, 04/15/2015 - 10:02

You hear people talking about it at parties and over dinner.  You even see advertisements on TV for medication that can make it all go away, but what is the difference between acid reflux and heartburn?  Acid reflux, also known as gastro esophageal reflux disease or GERD, occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (or valve) at the entrance of the stomach doesn’t close or opens inappropriately. When the valve doesn’t close, stomach acid refluxes into your esophagus causing acid damage to the lining.

Heartburn is one of the most common symptoms of acid reflux and is characterized by a pain or burning in your stomach, chest or throat. Other symptoms of acid reflux may include regurgitation, nausea, bloating and burping or hiccups that won’t stop. Sometime persistent cough or throat clearing may be a symptom of acid reflux.

Contrary to what many of us think, this isn’t just for older people.  People of all ages can experience acid reflux.  It is also quite common in pregnancy because the baby pushes against the stomach and diaphragm. Other causes for acid reflux include being overweight, eating before laying down, consuming large portions, drinking caffeine or alcohol, smoking and eating fatty foods. Spicy and acidic foods can make acid reflux symptoms much  worse.

It’s important to realize that heartburn or acid reflux can be serious and can lead to conditions called Barrett's Esophagus and esophageal cancer.  Therefore, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you suffer from heartburn two or more times a week. Your doctor may give you a prescription or perform endoscopy to check for more serious conditions.

Now you know the difference between acid reflux and heartburn—Heartburn  is a symptom of the condition called acid reflux.

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