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Digestive Conditions: Heartburn, Acid Reflux, GERD

Contributed by Vidhya Kunnathur, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine

Millions of adults deal with that uncomfortable burning sensation,
burping, sour taste, bloating and even chest pain every day. These symptoms are all common of heartburn, GERD and acid reflux but do you know the difference between the three digestive conditions?

Heartburn is mild to severe chest pain people may feel after eating a meal. It commonly causes a burning or tightening sensation that can worsen when bending or lying down and can happen to anyone at any age. Heartburn actually has nothing to do with the heart. It occurs when acid in the stomach flows back up into the esophagus, causing irritation to sensitive tissues. Unfortunately, there isn’t one trigger for heartburn. Pregnancy, obesity, anxiety and certain foods can be a cause. Antacids can usually help relieve the pain.

Acid Reflux
Similar to heartburn, acid reflux is the backward flow of stomach acid into the esophagus. The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, but it isn’t the only one. Some don’t experience heartburn but may get the feeling of acid backing or refluxing up into the throat. This can cause a sour or bitter taste in the mouth.

GERD, or gastrointestinal reflux disease, is the most serious of the three digestive conditions. GERD occurs when the esophagus or throat are regularly exposed to stomach acid (acid reflux) for a prolonged period of time (usually two or more times a week). GERD can cause pain, inflammation of the esophagus and tissue abnormalities that may not be relieved with antacids or other over-the-counter medication. Often strong medications prescribed by a doctor and lifestyle changes are needed to treat GERD. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health problems.

When symptoms occur two or more times a week or if over-the-counter medication doesn’t relieve the discomfort, call (513) 475-UC4U to schedule a consultation.


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