When you get that burning sensation in your esophagus, do you know what is causing it? You need to know exactly what your condition is before you can treat it, but acid reflux and heartburn have many of the same symptoms. The important differences lie in how often the discomfort occurs.
The technical cause for heartburn is when stomach acid migrates up from the stomach, and the most common reasons that people experience it include eating too much, tight clothing and advancing pregnancy.
All of these circumstances constrict the stomach, resulting in some stomach acid rising into the esophagus and the uncomfortable, burning sensation that follows.
The normal function of the esophagus is to carry food that has been chewed and swallowed to the stomach. Food enters the stomach by passing through an esophageal sphincter muscle at the lower end of the esophagus, and the muscle should then close so the food stays in the stomach.
If this lower esophageal sphincter muscle does not function properly, too much pressure on the stomach can force acid back through the valve. This defective valve is why some people experience heartburn more more frequently than others. Certain studies found a connection between stress and heartburn or acid reflux.
The technical term for acid reflux is gastrointestinal reflux disease, and is more commonly referred to as GERD. This condition is more serious than the occasional heartburn some people have since it occurs on a more regular basis, and at least once or twice in a week. Also, over-the-counter medication such as antacids are not effective in relieving the discomfort.
Frequent bouts of GERD can damage the esophageal lining if the condition is not treated, and this can lead to ulcers, bleeding, scar tissue and even esophageal cancer. The most obvious difference between heartburn and GERD is how often the burning sensation occurs.
If someone is suffering from GERD, it is essential that they begin proper treatment promptly. A healthcare provider should be consulted if heartburn is a problem more than two times a week on average.
Proper treatment of GERD includes prescription medications and lifestyle modifications. Substantial weight loss which can be accomplished through diet changes to include foods that are less rich and lower in fat.
Smokers should also quit smoking, and if GERD continues to be a problem, surgery is sometimes necessary to strengthen the lower esophageal sphincter muscle.