Is Your Heartburn Actually GERD?

Acid reflux, commonly known as heartburn, is a common medical condition that is usually mild. However, more severe cases can result in GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Acid reflux that occurs more than twice per week could be GERD.

“GERD is a manageable condition,” said gastroenterologist Nathan Pyle, DO, with Decatur Memorial Hospital. “It can often be improved with lifestyle changes and medication.”

While anyone can develop this condition, GERD is more likely to be diagnosed if you have a family history of the disease, or if you are pregnant, overweight or obese, male or middle-aged. You may also be more likely to develop GERD if you take medications that have acid reflux as a side effect or if you smoke or are exposed to secondhand smoke.

“Often people who have GERD do not consult with a doctor and try to manage the issue at home,” Pyle said. “It’s important to consult with your primary care provider and a specialist if they recommend it because it can lead to esophagus damage if left untreated.”

If you’ve been diagnosed with GERD, in addition to medication, some lifestyle changes can help:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid foods that trigger reflux.
  • Eat smaller meals.
  • Take a short walk after you eat and stay upright for at least a few hours.

Experiencing acid reflux?

Speak with your primary care provider to discuss your options for monitoring your risk.

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