Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Heartburn, Acid Reflux, and GERD are all similar conditions; however, it is important to know the difference between them. Acid reflux is when the acidic contents of the stomach splash up into the esophagus. When this happens many people experience a symptom known as heart burn. This term is misleading because it in fact does not involve your heart at all. When acid comes in contact with the esophagus, it causes a burning sensation at the bottom of your esophagus and it “feels” like your heart is burning. Finally, GERD which stands for gastroesophageal reflux disease is when acid reflux becomes chronic and severe. GERD can lead to the formation of cancerous cells if not treated.
Heartburn is a very common condition effecting over 50 million Americans per month. This condition occurs when acidic fluid from the stomach flows back into the esophagus causing symptoms of a burning sensation within the chest, abdominal pain, cough, hoarseness of voice, and trouble swallowing. This reflux of fluid may have several precipitating factors including a hiatal hernia, obesity/weight gain, smoking, pregnancy and certain foods such as fried food, spicy food, citrus fruit, tomato sauce, caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, mint.
Treatment of acid reflux includes lifestyle changes such as dietary modification, weight loss, smoking cessation, and elevating the head of the bed. Medications such as H2 blockers or proton pump inhibitors may be used to decrease acid production and heal inflammation.