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Saturday, April 6, 2013

How Serious is Heartburn and Acid Reflux? What is the Difference?

Heartburn is something most people have experienced at some time in their life. It is that burning sensation in the chest that usually occurs after eating. It can include an acid-like taste and burning in the throat, and even difficulty swallowing. It can last just a short time or go on for hours. Heartburn does not affect the heart.

Acid reflux disease, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), can produce similar symptoms and often includes regurgitation of stomach acid into the mouth, nausea, bloating and abdominal pain. Acid reflux may be an indication that stomach acid is causing the esophagus to become inflamed. If acid reflux occurs more than two times a week, it can damage the lining of the esophagus.

If any of the following symptoms occur with acid reflux, you should consult your doctor: blood in the vomit, sore throat that won't go away, pain when swallowing, continuous nausea. The problem with acid reflux is that the continued inflammation of the esophagus can cause scarring which will eventually make it difficult to swallow. Worse, it can lead to a condition called Barrett's esophagus which greatly increases the risk of cancer of the esophagus.

One other important reason not to ignore heartburn or acid reflux is that the symptoms can be similar to those of a heart attack. The symptoms of a heart attack to watch for include dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and pain in the neck, shoulders and jaw area. These are not symptoms that you would normally experience with heartburn or acid reflux. If these symptoms occur, don't second guess them. Call 911 immediately.

To avoid heartburn and acid reflux, avoid fried foods, caffeine and alcohol, chocolate, spicy foods, fatty foods, tomatoes and citrus fruits which are high in acid content, garlic and onions.  When heartburn and acid reflux occurs, over-the-counter antacids usually work. A doctor can also prescribe medications that reduce the amount of acid produced by the stomach.
DISCLAIMER: The content or opinions expressed on this web site are not to be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or medical practictioner before utilizing any suggestions on this web site.