Acid reflux is a common condition that occurs when stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation in the chest (also known as heartburn). It typically occurs after eating or lying down and is often relieved by antacids or other over-the-counter medications. Acid reflux can be triggered by certain foods, such as spicy or fatty foods, as well as lifestyle factors, such as obesity, smoking, and stress.
GERD, on the other hand, is a more severe and chronic form of acid reflux that occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) – the muscle that separates the esophagus from the stomach – is weakened or damaged. This allows stomach acid to flow back up into the esophagus on a regular basis, causing inflammation and damage to the esophageal lining. Over time, GERD can lead to complications such as ulcers, strictures (narrowing of the esophagus), and Barrett’s esophagus (a precancerous condition).
The symptoms of acid reflux and GERD can be similar, but GERD symptoms are generally more frequent, severe, and long-lasting. Some of the common symptoms of acid reflux include:
- Heartburn (a burning sensation in the chest)
- Regurgitation (a sour or bitter taste in the mouth)
The symptoms of GERD may include all of the above, as well as:
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Chest pain
- Chronic cough
- Laryngitis (hoarseness or sore throat)
The diagnosis of acid reflux and GERD is usually based on a patient’s symptoms and medical history, although additional testing may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions. Tests that may be used include:
- Upper endoscopy: This procedure involves inserting a flexible tube with a camera down the throat to examine the esophagus and stomach.
- Esophageal pH monitoring: This test measures the amount of acid in the esophagus over a 24-hour period.
- Esophageal manometry: This test measures the pressure in the esophagus and the function of the LES.
The treatment for acid reflux and GERD can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s symptoms. For mild cases of acid reflux, lifestyle modifications such as avoiding trigger foods, losing weight, and elevating the head of the bed may be effective. Over-the-counter medications such as antacids and H2 blockers can also provide relief.
For more severe cases of acid reflux or GERD, prescription medications such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may be necessary to reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach. In some cases, surgery may be recommended to strengthen the LES and prevent reflux.
It is important for patients with acid reflux or GERD to seek treatment and follow a management plan to prevent complications such as esophageal damage, ulcers, and cancer. With proper management, most patients can manage their symptoms and lead a healthy, normal life.
In conclusion, acid reflux and GERD are two distinct disorders with different causes, symptoms, and treatment options. While acid reflux is a common and often mild condition that can be managed with lifestyle modifications and over-the-counter medications, GERD is a more severe and chronic condition that requires more aggressive treatment. Patients who experience frequent or severe symptoms should consult their healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis and management plan. To make an appointment today, find your nearest location at https://townsenmemorial.com/townsen-locations/ or call 1-877-494-9487.
Pfizer. (2018, November 15). Heartburn, Acid Reflux, or GERD: What’s the Difference? Pfizer. https://www.pfizer.com/news/articles/heartburn_acid_reflux_or_gerd_what_s_the_difference
Mayo Clinic. (2021, January 21). Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux vs. GERD. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heartburn/expert-answers/heartburn-gerd/faq-20057894
Healthline. (n.d.). GERD: Heartburn vs. Acid Reflux. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/gerd/heartburn-vs-acid-reflux