Is It Heartburn or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)?

Medically Reviewed by Minesh Khatri, MD on January 26, 2022
1 min read

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

Your heartburn may be caused by a more serious condition, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, also called GERD. Here are questions to answer if you think you might have GERD:

  • Have you been treating heartburn 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 your symptoms include regurgitation -- bringing up gas and small amounts of food from your stomach to your mouth?
  • 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.