Heartburn: Acid Reflux and GERD

Acid Reflux

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux is the term used when the acid your stomach backs up or 'refluxes' into the esophagus where it doesn't belong.

What is the difference between acid reflux and heartburn?

Acid reflux is the action. Heartburn is the feeling. The movement of stomach acid into the esophagus is acid reflux. The burning feeling caused by this action is heartburn.

Acid reflux symptoms

The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn - but it isn't the only one. In fact, you may not even experience heartburn when you're suffering from acid reflux. Another common symptom is regurgitation or the feeling of acid backing up into your throat. This can cause a sour or bitter taste in the mouth. You may also experience a "wet burp" or even throw up.

GERD

What is GERD?

Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease or GERD for short is acid reflux that occurs regularly. Reflux by itself isn't unusual. GERD on the other hand, develops when acid reflux happens two or more times a week and produces troublesome symptoms. If left untreated, GERD may lead to some serious health problems. Only your doctor can tell you if you have GERD.

How serious is GERD?

When your esophagus or throat is regularly exposed to stomach acid it can cause pain, throat ulcers and tissue abnormalities. This could affect your quality of life, ability to swallow, breathe and even speak. Unmanaged, this damage could increase your risk of developing certain types of cancers.

Talk to a healthcare professional if:

  • You experience heartburn or acid reflux more than once a week
  • You still suffer from heartburn even after taking over-the-counter or prescription medications
  • You have been taking an over-the-counter medication longer than the product label recommends
  • Your symptoms become more severe over time
  • Your symptoms start lasting longer or become more frequent
  • You experience severe hoarseness or wheezing
  • Swallowing food or pills becomes difficult or painful