The Difference Between GERD and Heartburn

People may think heartburn is GERD and GERD is heartburn, but it’s important to know the difference. While infrequent heartburn after eating a large or spicy meal is common and usually nothing to worry about, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), on the other hand, can have serious repercussions.

In its most basic sense, heartburn is a symptom, while GERD is a medical condition. Heartburn is a burning sensation that typically presents beneath the breastbone. Heartburn is a common symptom of GERD, but GERD can cause damage to the esophagus. While Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and heartburn are typically related, they are not always linked.

While heartburn happens infrequently after overeating or eating spicy food, GERD is chronic. GERD occurs when acid from the stomach moves up into the esophagus. Over time, this can damage the esophageal tissues that are designed to handle such harsh acids. GERD is generally caused by a weakness in the muscle, called the lower esophageal muscle, that lies at the bottom of the esophagus.

Although heartburn is a common symptom of GERD, there are a host of other symptoms associated with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). These include a chronic, dry cough, sore throat, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, hoarse voice, feeling like something is in the throat and asthma-like wheezing.

If left untreated, GERD can cause serious long-term complications, such as the pre-cancerous condition Barrett’s esophagus, esophagus scarring, esophagus erosion, narrowing of the esophagus, esophagitis and even esophageal cancer. If you experience any symptoms concurrent with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, seek prompt medical attention from your Atlanta, GA GERD specialist.

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