Most people get heartburn once in a while, but if you have heartburn two or more times per week, you may have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a term used to describe chronic heartburn. Heartburn is caused by stomach acid that backs up into the esophagus (the narrow tube that connects the throat and the stomach). This so-called acid reflux occurs when the valve separating the esophagus and the stomach opens at an inappropriate time.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms, GERD is treated with diet and lifestyle changes, over-the-counter remedies, prescription medications, and/or surgery. It is important to treat GERD, because the disease can damage the esophagus over time.