Know the difference between acid reflux and acid reflux disease
You may have experienced occasional heartburn (a symptom of acid reflux), a burning sensation that moves from your stomach up to your chest after eating something spicy or drinking too much coffee. Acid reflux may also occur when you bend over to pick something up or lie down soon after eating. You may get a burning sensation in your throat, possibly even some regurgitation, or vomit. That’s your stomach juices moving up into your esophagus where they don’t belong.
Occasional reflux is nothing to be concerned about, but if it becomes chronic (more than one to two times a week), or the symptoms interfere with your everyday life, you may have acid reflux disease, commonly called gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
Symptoms of acid reflux disease and problems that can develop
Acid reflux disease is mostly uncomfortable and inconvenient, causing a variety of symptoms in addition to heartburn, including:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Feeling like you have a lump in your throat
- Upper abdominal pain
If you smoke, are overweight, have diabetes or asthma, you are more susceptible to GERD. Pregnant women are also more likely to have it.
If left unchecked, acid can wear away at the esophageal lining of the throat, causing inflammation and bleeding. Acid reflux disease may also lead to a precancerous condition called Barrett’s esophagus. In fact, people with acid reflux disease are more inclined to develop esophageal cancer.
What to do about acid reflux disease
Once you’re diagnosed with acid reflux disease by a medical professional, a variety of treatments exist, including preventive measures such as changing certain lifestyle behaviors. If lifestyle changes and over-the-counter antacids don’t help, your doctor may prescribe medication that decreases the amount of gastric (stomach) acid your body produces.
In cases where medication and dietary changes haven’t made a significant difference, surgery may be an option to further prevent reflux from happening.