Difference Between Heartburn and Acid Reflux (With Table)

Heartburn and Acid reflux are two closely related medical conditions and based of longevity of symptoms, they differ. Heartburn, the symptom of Acid Reflux is the burning sensation around the mid-chest.
In due course of the period of occurrence, they vary.

Heartburn vs Acid Reflux

The main difference between Heartburn and Acid Reflux is that Heartburn occurs immediately after a heavy meal and can last for few minutes to an hour. On the other hand, Acid Reflux, categorized as an ailment, is more frequent than Heartburn and can last over an hour.

Heartburn vs Acid

The delicate tissue lining of the oesophagus is affected by the backflow of stomach acid under specific instances. The acid backflow caused due to the improper functioning of Lower Oesophageal Sphincter (LES) causes a stinging pain in the oesophagus, felt behind the ribcage. This stinging pain due to the backflow of acid into the oesophagus is called as a Heartburn.

Acid Reflux is similar to that of Heartburn. If the heartburn is more frequent, then he/she might be affected by Acid Reflux. The underlying cause must be found and treated soon, as Acid Reflux may lead to further chronic ailments.

Comparison Table Between Heartburn and Acid Reflux

Parameter of ComparisonHeartburnAcid Reflux
DefinitionHeartburn is the backflow of stomach acid into the esophagus, causing a burning sensation behind the ribcage.Acid Reflux is a serious ailment caused due to frequent and prolonged heartburns, causes a burning sensation over the chest.
SymptomsSensation of burning behind the sternum Sensing acidic, bitter, salty taste, difficulty in swallowing, hot sensation on the throat area.Severe stinging pain over the esophagus, moreover on the chest region, tightening of chest
CausesCaused after having a heavy meal.  Lying on your stomach after a meal can also cause Heartburn. 
Problem in the oesophagal sphincter may also be a problem.
Consuming fatty foods, citrus foods, carbonated beverages may cause Acid Reflux.  Smoking or being in contact with a smoker frequently can also cause Acid Reflux. 
Specific natureHas no Specific nature and can be caused in anyone.Diabetic people, pregnant women, obese people and hiatal hernia patients are affected more frequently.
LongevityUsually lasts for minutes to an hourMay last more than an hour
TreatabilityCan be treated with Antacids and Acid suppressorsMay require physician’s advice
SeverityNot severe as Acid RefluxMore severe than Heartburn
TreatmentAntacids, foaming agents and Acid suppressors should help.Physician’s advice and changes in lifestyle are essential.

What is Heartburn?

Heartburn, a symptom of Acid Reflux and GERD is mild and easy to treat. The stomach lining is much denser than the lining over the oesophagus so that in contact with the stomach acid, the oesophagus experiences a stinging sensation over the chest area. This sensation is called Heartburn and this feel vanishes in minutes.

Heartburn has nothing to do with the cardiovascular system of our body but is related to gastroenterology. So, it shouldn’t be considered a heart ailment.
At the instance of Heartburn, we could feel a sour, bitter and salty taste over the throat area along with the pain behind the sternum. This lasts only for a moment and disappears thereafter.

Heartburn is treatable at home. The symptoms can disappear after consuming Antacids. But recurring Heartburn is serious and can indicate either Acid Reflux or GERD.
Obese and diabetic people are more prone to frequent Heartburns than normal people. Smoking is one of the main causes of Heartburn and it should be strictly avoided.

In normal individuals, eating deep-fried food and consuming fatty foods may Cause Heartburn. Lying immediately after a meal should be strictly avoided.

What is Acid Reflux?

Acid Reflux is a chronic phenomenon, in which the stomach acid raises from the stomach to the oesophagus.
Acid Reflux occurs particularly when the stomach is under pressure. Slouching can be a problem for Acid Reflux too, as it implies pressure on the stomach. Another such case is the hiatal hernia, in which the upper part of the stomach moves over the diaphragm.

Some risk factors which cause Acid Reflux are overweight, consuming crispy deep-fried food, consuming carbonated beverages, consuming tea and coffee, smoking, etc.

The Acid Reflux may also cause bloody vomit, burping, hiccups upon eating spicy food, feeling of nausea, loss of body weight, respiratory ailments like wheezing.

Antacids and acid blockers can be a temporary cure for Acid Reflux but not permanent. Changes in lifestyle and food habits alongside following the physician’s advice can help cure Acid Reflux.

Upon inspection by a physician, he may ask for either one or multiple of the following tests: Oesophagal manometry, Stomach acid pH monitoring, Endoscopy, Biopsy. If the underlying cause was not identified, then the physician may suggest surgery. The patient is operated on the lower end of his oesophagus.

Main Differences Between Heartburn and Acid Reflux

  • Heartburn is a burning sensation behind the sternum and it is a symptom of Acid Reflux. Acid Reflux is a chronic disease, in which the stomach acid reverts along the oesophagus, hurting the delicate tissues of oesophagus.
  • Heartburn is even treatable at home and may not require a medical consultation. Acid Reflux requires consultation from a physician, as the effects are severe.
  • Heartburn is a mild disease. Acid reflux is categorized as mild, moderate, severe and chronic.
  • Heartburn can disappear on its own after a few minutes. But Acid Reflux requires proper treatment.
  • Heartburn can be treated by taking Antacids and Acid inhibitors. Acid Reflux is treated by altering one’s lifestyle under the guidance of a physician.

Conclusion

Heartburn and Acid Reflex are both related to ailments of the Gastrointestinal tract. The GI tract is important since the GI processes the food we eat. Any disorder in the GI must be treated immediately, as the disease begins from a mild symptom like Heartburn, develop into an issue like Acid Reflux and may end up in Cancer.

Deep-fried and undercooked foods should be avoided. Smoking may cause GI ailments, being a chain smoker is also dangerous. The symptoms must be identified at the head start and cured as soon as possible.

References

  1. https://gut.bmj.com/content/51/6/885.abstract
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc1862803/
  3. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/nejm199409083311007