What Are the Differences Between Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD

Have you ever had a mild, burning pain in your chest after eating a spicy meal or overindulging in wine? If so, you probably experienced a common condition called heartburn.

What is Heartburn?
Heartburn, also called acid reflux, is a burning feeling in the chest that is caused by stomach acid travelling back up the oesophagus. It’s normal for people to experience this from time to time and isn’t a cause for concern.

What is Acid Reflux?
When you swallow, there’s a band of muscle around the bottom of your oesophagus that relaxes to allow food and liquid to reach your stomach. Once you’re done swallowing, this muscle tightens again. However, if this muscle weakens or relaxes irregularly, this can allow acid to leave your stomach and travel up the oesophagus. It’s usually worse when you bend over or lie down.

Symptoms of Acid Reflux:
  • A bitter or sour taste in the mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Chronic cough or hiccups
  • Bloating
  • Gas

What is GERD?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a chronic form of acid reflux that occurs more than twice per week. Left untreated, GERD can cause tooth decay and long-term damage to the oesophagus. It also makes a person more likely to develop oesophageal cancer. If you suspect you have GERD, you should visit your GP.

Other Complications of GERD:
  • Esophagitis: swelling of the oesophagus
  • Esophageal ulcers: painful sores in the oesophagus
  • Esophageal stricture: scar tissue that builds up and narrows the oesophagus
  • Barrett’s oesophagus: stomach acid creates precancerous cells

GERD in Children
Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is common in young babies but isn’t anything to worry about, unless they spit up on your clothes! Most babies will outgrow this by age 14 months.

GER developing into GERD in babies and children is uncommon, but if they are experiencing GERD symptoms it’s important to get it diagnosed or treated. Left untreated, it can cause malnutrition, breathing troubles, and limit growth.

Heartburn and GERD in Pregnant Women
Pregnant women often experience frequent heartburn and GERD. Usually this stops as soon as the baby is born and won’t cause any long-term effects. Eating smaller meals, taking antacids, and avoiding acidic foods can help.

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