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Heartburn/GERD Health Center

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Is It Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

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Occasional heartburn is often treatable with over-the-counter medication and/or lifestyle modification.

Ask yourself these questions to see if your heartburn may be caused by a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD:

Recommended Related to Heartburn/GERD

Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease

Three out of every 10 people experience heartburn on occasion, so it can be somewhat arbitrary to decide when heartburn should be called acid reflux disease. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), acid reflux disease is a chronic irritation of the lining of a person's esophagus by stomach acid. Usually, it's just annoying. GERD can, however, have serious consequences, including esophagitis and Barrett's esophagus. Barrett's esophagus is a condition that increases the likelihood of...

Read the Diagnosing Acid Reflux Disease article > >

  • Have you been having symptoms of GERD and treating with over-the-counter medicines for more than 2 weeks?
  • Has the pattern of your heartburn changed? Is it worse than it used to be?
  • Do you wake up at night with heartburn?
  • Have you been having any difficulty swallowing?
  • Do you continue to have heartburn symptoms even after taking non-prescription medication?
  • Do you experience hoarseness or worsening of asthma after meals, lying down, or exercise, or asthma that occurs mainly at night?
  • Are you experiencing unexplained weight loss or loss of appetite?
  • Do your heartburn symptoms interfere with your lifestyle or daily activity?
  • Are you in need of increasing doses of nonprescription medicine to control heartburn?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your heartburn warrants attention from a medical professional. People with long-standing chronic heartburn are at greater risk for serious complications including stricture (narrowing) of the esophagus or a potentially precancerous condition called Barrett's esophagus.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 15, 2015
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