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Is It Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

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:

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Keeping a Heartburn Log

Heartburn symptoms can be triggered by certain foods, beverages, and activities. For example, some people suffer heartburn after eating onions, peppermint, chocolate, caffeine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, or high-fat foods. Others suffer heartburn if they lie down after a large meal. What are your triggers? Find out by keeping a heartburn log. Each day, jot down your symptoms and the time they occurred. Then note the foods you ate and your specific activities before the symptoms began. Once you notice...

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  • 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 use to be?
  • Do you wake up at night with heartburn?
  • Have you been having occasional heartburn that is associated with 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 June 21, 2013
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