Heartburn vs. GERD: What’s the difference?

March 27, 2024

Are you experiencing discomfort after meals or a night out with friends? That warmth in your esophagus or burning sensation in your stomach might be heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Let’s dive into what distinguishes these conditions and how to manage them effectively.

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn, also known as gastroesophageal reflux (GER), occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) fails to close properly. This allows stomach acid and other contents to flow back into the esophagus, causing irritation. The burning sensation often felt in the chest area is why it’s commonly referred to as ‘heartburn.’ Certain medications and supplements can also contribute to this discomfort.

What is GERD?

While heartburn may occur occasionally, GERD is a chronic condition characterized by frequent symptoms, occurring more than twice a week. Signs of GERD include repeated heartburn, trouble swallowing, bloating, upper abdominal or chest pain, and regurgitation of food and stomach acid.

Gerd Symptoms:

  • Repeated heartburn, especially after meals or when lying down
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • Bloating
  • Upper abdominal or chest pain
  • Nausea
  • A sensation of pressure in the esophagus or a lump in the throat
  • Persistent throat clearing or burping
  • Sore throat, hoarseness, or laryngitis
  • Regurgitation of food and stomach acid into the esophagus

How to Manage Heartburn and GERD:

Dietary and lifestyle changes can help alleviate symptoms of heartburn and GERD. Avoiding trigger foods such as alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, and acidic items like citrus fruits can reduce discomfort. Lifestyle modifications like losing weight, wearing loose clothing, reducing stress, and elevating the head while sleeping can also provide relief.

Over-the-counter Medications:

If lifestyle changes alone are not sufficient, over-the-counter medications like antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) can help neutralize stomach acid or reduce its production. Melatonin supplements, when used in conjunction with omeprazole, have also shown promising results in symptom management.

When to Seek Medical Advice:

While self-care measures can provide relief for many, it’s essential to consult a doctor if symptoms persist or worsen. Untreated GERD can lead to complications such as esophageal ulcers, strictures, or even an increased risk of esophageal cancer. Medical supervision ensures proper diagnosis and effective management of reflux issues.

Understanding the difference between heartburn and GERD empowers individuals to take control of their digestive health. By making dietary and lifestyle adjustments, exploring over-the-counter remedies, and seeking medical guidance when needed, you can manage reflux symptoms effectively and enjoy a better quality of life.

Don’t let heartburn or GERD disrupt your daily activities – visit AFC Urgent Care Mooresville today!

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