Heartburn and acid reflux are often used interchangeably with the term GERD or Gastroesophageal reflux disease. There are differences between the three conditions. Heartburn happens in the esophagus, which causes discomfort in the chest. It’s sometimes mistaken for a heart attack when it is actually a symptom of acid reflux.
What is Acid Reflux and GERD?
Acid reflux happens when the lower esophageal sphincter does not function properly. This round muscle serves as a gateway between the stomach and the esophagus. If it doesn’t tighten properly or is weak, stomach acid will be able to move into the esophagus causing acid reflux.
The lining found in the esophagus is delicate compared to the lining in your stomach. When acid comes in contact with it, it creates the burning sensation known as heartburn. Other acid reflux symptoms include:
- Sore throat
- Bitter taste at the back of the throat
- Sour taste inside the mouth
- Feelings of pressure or burning
Those who report chronic acid reflux are diagnosed with GERD. That means experiencing acid reflux two times or more per week. If the problem goes unaddressed, it can cause cancer. The common symptoms of GERD include:
- Chest pain
- Tooth enamel damage
- Trouble swallowing
- Dry cough that’s persistent
- Feelings of regurgitation
- Bad breath
Treating Acid Reflux & Heartburn
Changes in habits can help reduce acid reflux. Weight loss, modified diet, and cessation of smoking and alcohol can have a positive effect. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a gastroenterologist. They can provide a diagnosis and help you find the treatment you need before the condition leads to something more serious.