Have you had a sore throat for a while? In some cases, this can mean that you are about to catch a cold, but it can also be a sign of a problem with the lower esophageal sphincter. It’s the muscle that regulates the opening between the esophagus and the stomach, and if it doesn’t close completely, food and stomach acid can flow back up the esophagus. This is medically known as acid reflux. But this term is often confused with heartburn. However, heartburn and acidity are different.
HealthShots contacted Dr. Naresh Agarwal (MD, DM), Associate Director, Gastroenterology and Endoscopy at Max Superseniority Hospital, Patparganj, Delhi to find out the difference between heartburn and acidity.
What is heartburn?
The term “heartburn” does not refer to pain in your heart. In fact, it has nothing to do with your heart. It occurs in your digestive system and involves mild to severe chest pain, which is mistaken for a heart attack, but it is not.
Read also : Is it a heart attack or heartburn? Here’s how to differentiate
Dr. Agarwal explains it as a physical symptom that patients experience as burning, discomfort, heaviness or uneasiness in the area behind the middle of the chest or upper abdomen. It may or may not affect you after eating. There are many reasons why this happens and acid reflux is one of the many causes that lead to heartburn. Apart from this, it can also occur due to heart problems, infections, and liver and gallbladder problems.
Even emotional issues and depression can contribute to heartburn. The diagnosis of heartburn is based on the history and detailed examination of the patient. Treatment for heartburn depends on the cause of the problem.
What is Acid Reflux?
“Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a structural problem in which acid builds up into the food pipe or esophagus from the stomach,” says Dr. Agarwal. Sometimes there is a stomach prolapse in the food pipe known as a hiatal hernia which is associated with reflux. Acid reflux can cause heartburn. Surprisingly, many patients with reflux may not have heartburn and this problem can be overlooked.
Read also : Be careful! These Everyday Things Can Trigger Acid Reflux
Acid reflux can cause heartburn and heartburn can be present at times without reflux. Dr. Agarwal says that almost 50% of cases of heartburn and acid reflux coexist. Treatment aims to reduce acid or restore weakness in the lower digestive tract, whether it is an anatomical or functional problem. Medical treatment is the main treatment and we have drugs called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) to deal with acid reflux, adds the expert. Besides drugs, endoscopic treatments like ARMA (ant reflux mucosal ablation) and fundoplication are used to treat difficult cases. Surgical intervention is rarely necessary.
Acid Reflux vs Heartburn
Think of these two problems as branches of the same tree, but they certainly can’t be used interchangeably. Heartburn is a symptom that a patient experiences and it may or may not be due to free flow. Acid reflux may or may not cause heartburn, so sometimes they’re related and sometimes they’re unrelated.
It’s best to ask your doctor if you suffer from heartburn or acid reflux. And your health care provider will also guide you through the right treatment.
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