What’s the Difference Between Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Acid Reflux?

By: | Tags: , , , , | Comments: 0 | May 26th, 2016

man suffering from symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux diseaseAcid reflux and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are sometimes used interchangeably, and although they’re closely related, the terms don’t necessarily mean the same thing.

In this blog, Manhattan gastroenterologist Dr. Anthony Borcich will explain the difference between gastroesophageal reflux disease and acid reflux, as well as discuss an increasingly prevalent related problem, eosinophilic esophagitis or EoE. 

What is acid reflux?

Acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back into your esophagus – the tube that connects the throat and stomach. This acid, which is made by your stomach’s cells in order to help digest food, backs up through the area where your esophagus and stomach meet. At low levels, it’s actually a normal part of digestion.

Normally, a ring of muscle helps keep the top of your stomach closed. It’s supposed to relax and open up when you swallow, but reflux occurs when this ring opens when you aren’t swallowing. This allows the stomach acid to flow back or reflux up the esophagus.

It can cause some unpleasant symptoms – including coughing, heartburn or tasting a sour liquid in the back of your mouth – but it’s not considered to be a disease.

If you have acid reflux, you can help relieve symptoms by trying some of the following:

  • Eating smaller meals
  • Avoiding lying flat on your back for a few hours after eating
  • Avoiding foods that can trigger heartburn, including fried or fatty foods, coffee, mint, and chocolate
  • Avoiding nicotine and alcohol

Schedule an appointment for acid reflux treatment

What is gastroesophageal reflux disease?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, is a chronic disease that’s triggered by the flow of stomach acid up into your esophagus. It happens frequently enough to cause injury to the lining of the esophagus.

While occasional heartburn and acid reflux are quite common, if you experience these symptoms more than twice a week, it can indicate the presence of GERD. About 20% of people in the U.S. are estimated to have GERD. It’s thought to be more prevalent now than in the past because it’s also linked to obesity, although this isn’t true in every case.

What are GERD symptoms?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease may cause or coincide with other symptoms, which may include:

In rare cases, GERD can lead to serious health problems over time. It has been associated with asthma, Barrett’s esophagus (a pre-cancerous condition), and esophageal cancer.

Schedule an appointment for GERD treatment

What is eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) and how are the symptoms different than GERD?

EoE is a form of chronic inflammation of the esophagus caused by allergy to certain foods or other environmental allergens. It can coexist until GERD, may be noticed as occasional difficulty swallowing or other related sensations and can even cause chest pain or upper abdominal pain. Notably, it is  increasingly found and more common in younger patients (ex 18-50).  It is distinguished  by findings on an upper GI endoscopy (EGD), and is often associated with seasonal allergies, food allergies, and even asthma. The prevalence has skyrocketed in the last 20 years, formerly being an uncommon disorder.
Fortunately, treatment in many cases is completely successful following a structured approach to identify the offending allergens with medication reserved for resistant cases of flareups.  It can cause long term scarring of the esophagus resultant permanently difficult swallowing.  It is important that your gastroenterologist is knowledgeable in the variety of conditions potentially underlying your esophageal symptoms, even in younger patients whom other doctors may have mistakenly dismissed of having only mild reflux. Persistent symptoms  warrant evaluation by a top gastroenterology specialist.

What is the difference between GERD and acid reflux?

Acid reflux is the backing up of stomach acid, while GERD is a disease that is caused by frequent reflux. Sometimes acid reflux progresses to GERD.

The most common symptom of GERD is frequent heartburn. Other signs and symptoms may include the regurgitation of food or sour liquid, difficulty swallowing, coughing, wheezing, and chest pain – especially when lying down at night.

Where can I find treatment for GERD and acid reflux in NYC?

If you’re experiencing any of the signs of symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, an evaluation with an experienced Manhattan gastroenterologist is the first step to finding relief.

Dr. Borcich has more than 30 years of experience in diagnosing and treating acid reflux and heartburn caused by GERD and is known for his compassionate care and personalized approach.

He’ll begin with a thorough evaluation, including a review of your medical history, your symptoms, and any medications you take. He’ll then tailor a treatment plan based on your specific history, symptoms, and needs.

Schedule an appointment today by contacting our office or filling out the schedule appointment form on this page.