More than 60 million Americans have occasional heartburn (once a month). More than 15 million suffer from daily heartburn. Eighty percent of GERD patients have a non-progressive form that can be controlled with lifestyle modifications and/or medications. The other 20 percent have progressive GERD that can lead to complications including stricture or Barrett’s Esophagus.
John P. Snook, MD, a Franciscan Health family medicine physician with Franciscan Physician Network Greenwood Parke Family Medicine, answers your questions and shares expert insight to help you make informed decisions about acid reflux and GERD.
What's the Difference Between Acid Reflux and GERD?
Acid reflux and GERD are related and share some of the same symptoms.
Acid reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux, happens when stomach acid flows backward into your esophagus. This can leave a sour taste in your mouth or cause heartburn. Many times, occasional acid reflux can be reduced by losing excess weight and avoiding foods that trigger your heartburn, such as fried and fatty foods, alcohol, etc. Over-the-counter antacids can relieve symptoms, too.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a chronic condition. When the symptoms of acid reflux and heartburn occur at least twice a week, you may have GERD, which eventually damages the esophagus. Other symptoms may include chest pain, difficulty in swallowing and a dry cough. In fact, sometimes a person with GERD will think he or she is having a heart attack.
If you frequently have symptoms of acid reflux, don't ignore them. Over time, GERD can cause serious damage to cells and tissues in your esophagus. Talk to your doctor about treatment options. Fortunately, there are several medication and surgical options to control GERD.
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