Do You Have GERD, or Just Heartburn?
For many people, heartburn is only an occasional problem, causing momentary discomfort after a meal. For others, heartburn becomes so serious and frequent that it starts to affect health and quality of life.
If you’re in the first group, overcoming heartburn can be as simple as using over-the-counter medicines and making a few lifestyle changes. But if you’re in the latter group and heartburn is a chronic problem, you may suffer from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which can require more in-depth medical treatment.
Left untreated, the repeated acid reflux of GERD can put us at risk of long-term esophageal damage and complications like Barrett’s esophagus. Still, it can sometimes be hard to tell if you need treatment for a serious problem like GERD, or just a few strategies to minimize your chances of experiencing a rare heartburn flare-up.
If you find that you agree with any of the statements below, it may be time to get further medical attention for your problems with acid reflux and heartburn:
- Your heartburn symptoms have begun to interfere with your lifestyle.
- You experience acid reflux and heartburn more than two times per week.
- Your heartburn has gotten worse than before or has started to follow a different pattern.
- You have been treating the symptoms of GERD with over-the-counter medicines for more than two weeks.
- You find that you consistently need to increase the dose of over-the-counter medicine to control heartburn.
- You continue to have heartburn symptoms after taking non-prescription medicine.
- Your heartburn wakes you up at night.
- You’ve noticed that heartburn is often also accompanied by difficulty swallowing.
- You have asthma or hoarseness after eating, when you lie down or when you exercise.
- You have asthma that affects you mostly at night.
These may be signs that your heartburn is connected to GERD. If you notice any of the signs above, consulting a doctor can help you determine if you suffer from GERD, and if you need medication or reflux surgery to treat it.