Burning pain in your chest or throat. A bitter taste in your mouth. Discomfort made worse by laying down. Most people have experienced these common symptoms of heartburn at one point or another. However, heartburn can indicate a more serious problem with your health—and occasional heartburn may even be painful enough to be mistaken for the chest pains often associated with a heart attack. That being said, heartburn isn’t actually a condition itself but rather a symptom of acid reflux. Acid reflux may be a mild, occasional problem or a chronic, ongoing condition called GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux and GERD.

Heartburn is characterized by a sharp, burning sensation in the chest. This pain is caused by stomach acid creeping up to the sensitive esophageal lining. Often, heartburn caused by occasional acid reflux is brought on by certain foods. For example, spicy and fatty foods are both associated with acid reflux. Heartburn may feel worse when you’re lying down, and it’s usually relieved with an over-the-counter antacid.

GERD is chronic, severe acid reflux.

If you find yourself frequently reaching for the antacid in your medicine cabinet, you may have a chronic condition called GERD. With GERD, you may feel regular heartburn along with more subtle symptoms like chronic bad breath, a dry cough, asthma flareups, and damage to the tooth enamel. Antacids may also fail to offer adequate relief from heartburn caused by GERD.

With both GERD and occasional acid reflux, lifestyle changes can make a big difference. Habits and conditions that can increase your likelihood of GERD include being overweight or obese, smoking, pregnancy, consuming alcohol, and consuming a diet rich in fatty foods.

No matter what the cause, heartburn doesn’t have to be a disruption in your life. MeMD can help you tackle GERD, acid reflux, and other digestive discomforts with immediate access to a licensed medical provider who can treat you over the web via telehealth.

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