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Difference Between Acid Reflux and Heartburn

heartburn_bookAcid Reflux vs Heartburn

Sometimes acid reflux and heartburn are used interchangeably. Although they sound the same, both have differences. One may be the manifestation of the other or the other could be a chronic form of another.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease or better known as acid reflux is a chronic disease that mostly happens over and over again if not properly managed. It is a disease that occurs when the sphincter muscle surrounding the end of the esophagus does not close properly. When this happens, the acid from the stomach escapes back into the esophagus and cause irritation. Obesity, ingestion of fatty and acidic food, taking large amount of food in a single meal, smoking and alcohol intake are some factors that may trigger reflux. Even women could experience acid reflux during pregnancy.

Many people misunderstood acid reflux as caused by heartburn. This is not true because heartburn is only a symptom of acid reflux. If the symptoms of heartburn occur often and with intensity such as right after a snack or a meal and continuous feel of pain from heartburn regardless of medication, there is a big possibility that the person might be suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease. At times medications like Tums or any other antacids cannot ease the occurrence of acid reflux. Sustained heartburn and backing up of food from the stomach are common symptoms of acid reflux. Heartburn may not be a constant symptom of the disease and the person may not feel the pain during the reflux period. Acid reflux is a complicated situation that even undergoing surgery if other methods are not effective is an option for treatment.

Heartburn is an acute, burning pain and discomfort sensation in the middle of the chest caused by the stomach acid reflux into the esophagus. Sometimes the pain extends to the neck and throat. It is mostly related with poor digestion because of alcohol, high acid content food and some medications that the esophageal lining is thinning. It is not a disease but a symptom of acid reflux. Acid reflux happens occasionally and does not cause further physical problem. It can be treated with over-the-counter drugs such as antacids. Acid reflux can happen without heartburn but heartburn canít take place without acid reflux.

Always consult with your doctor. Medications should be taken only if prescribed by doctors.


1. Acid reflux is a disease and heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux.
2. Acid reflux is chronic in nature while heartburn is acute in nature.
3. Acid reflux occurs repeatedly while heartburn occurs occasionally.
4. Heartburn is caused by poor digestion of food and acid reflux is caused by backing up of stomach acid.
5. Acid reflux is painless during the reflux period while heartburn is painful.

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