The Difference Between Heartburn and GERD

Pain in the chest that radiates into the throat could indicate that a person is suffering from either heartburn or GERD. While these two disorders are often mistaken for one another, there are some key differences between the two that should be noted. Treatment options differ for heartburn and GERD, so an appropriate diagnosis is a must when sufferers are trying to feel better.

About Heartburn

Heartburn is a burning sensation or pain that occurs in the chest. This sensation often presents itself after a meal, and certain foods tend to trigger heartburn in sufferers. Heartburn occurs when the lower esophageal sphincter fails to close off to prevent stomach acid from entering the esophagus.

Since occasional heartburn is typically linked to certain foods that a person eats, a common treatment option is for the sufferer to avoid these foods. Medications may be recommended to relieve the pain and discomfort associated with heartburn.

Pregnancy can cause heartburn. This is especially true as a woman approaches her due date. If discomfort is substantial during pregnancy, antacids may be recommended. However, it is important for pregnant women to consult with their licensed healthcare professional before taking any type of medication.

About GERD

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a condition that affects approximately 60 percent of adults in the U.S. each year. One-quarter of adult Americans suffer from symptoms of the condition on a weekly basis. The discomfort caused by GERD can affect a person’s ability to perform job tasks, sleep or engage in enjoyable activities.

Heartburn is one of the primary symptoms of GERD. While the sensation of burning in the chest and throat causes much of the discomfort associated with the condition, other symptoms of GERD make it a more serious problem than occasional heartburn.

Symptoms of GERD include:

  • A sensation of stomach acid working up through the throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Painful swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Coughing

The chronic nature of GERD also sets it apart from heartburn.

Do You Have Heartburn or GERD?

Heartburn is a symptom of GERD, but many people who experience heartburn never develop GERD. If you suffer from occasional discomfort that can be attributed to eating certain foods, it is likely that you are experiencing heartburn.

However, people who suffer from severe heartburn on a regular basis may have GERD. If you notice that you are experiencing the symptoms listed above, you should consult with your doctor to discuss treatment options. GERD is a disorder that can get worse if it is left untreated. The discomfort of GERD often interferes with the quality of your life, so treatment is a must.

What To Do Next

If you suspect that you are suffering from heartburn or GERD, it is important to seek prompt medical attention. Your medical provider will evaluate your unique symptoms to determine which disorder you may have. Treatment options differ for each of these disorders, so it is important to get a diagnosis before beginning any medication or lifestyle alteration that is intended to improve the condition.