Gastroesophageal reflux refers to the backward flow of acid from the stomach up into the esophagus. People will experience heartburn, also known as acid indigestion, when excessive amounts of acid reflux into the esophagus. Most people describe heartburn as a feeling of burning chest pain, localized behind the breastbone that moves up toward the neck and throat.
Some even experience the bitter or sour taste of the acid in the back of the throat. The burning and pressure symptoms of heartburn can last as long as 2 hours and are often worsened by eating food.
Hemorrhoids are blood vessels (veins) in the anal canal. When those blood vessels become swollen or dilated, symptoms may develop. Many people have hemorrhoids, but have no symptoms.
How common are hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids are very common and by age 50, nearly half of Americans have hemorrhoids. Nearly 5% of the US population (15,000,000 people) has sought medical care for symptomatic hemorrhoids. Many more have problems with hemorrhoids, but never seek formal medical attention.
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How Common is GERD?
Over 60 million Americans experience acid indigestion at least once a month and some studies have suggested that over 15 million Americans experience acid indigestion daily. Symptoms of acid indigestion are more common among the elderly and women during pregnancy.
When Should You See a Doctor about GERD?
When symptoms of acid indigestion are not controlled with modifications in lifestyle, and over-the-counter medicines are needed more often than twice a week, you should see your doctor.
When GERD is left untreated serious complications can occur, such as severe chest pain that can mimic a heart attack, esophageal stricture (a narrowing or obstruction of the esophagus), bleeding, or Barrett's esophagus, (a pre-malignant condition of the esophagus). Symptoms suggesting that serious damage has already occurred include:
• Dysphagia: A feeling that food is trapped behind the breastbone
• Bleeding: Vomiting blood or tarry, black bowel movements
• Choking: Sensation of acid refluxed into the windpipe causing shortness of breath, coughing or hoarseness of the voice