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Heartburn: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Overview

Heartburn refers to a burning sensation in the chest located just below your breastbone. Heartburn is usually worse after eating, at night, when you lie down, or when you bend over.

Heartburn is a common occurrence and should not be feared. Heartburn can be managed by most people with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter medication.

Heartburn that is frequent and/or interferes with your daily life may indicate a more serious condition. You should seek medical attention.

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Signs

Heartburn symptoms include:

  • A burning sensation in the chest, usually after eating. It may also occur at night.
  • When you lie down or bend over, your pain will worsen.
  • The mouth can have a bitter or acidic taste

When should you see a doctor?

If you feel severe chest pain or pressure, seek immediate medical attention. This is especially true if it’s combined with other symptoms like pain in your arm, jaw, or difficulty breathing. A heart attack may cause chest pain.

If:

  • Heartburn can occur more than twice per week
  • Even with the use of prescription medications, symptoms persist
  • It is difficult to swallow
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Weight loss is caused by a lack of appetite or difficulty eating

Causes

Heartburn is caused by stomach acid backing up into the tube that transports food from your mouth to your stomach (esophagus).

Normaly, when you swallow, a small band of muscle at the bottom of your stomach (lower esophageal Sphincter) relaxes to allow liquids and food to flow into your stomach. The muscle then tightens.

Acid reflux is caused by stomach acid flowing back into your esophagus. Acid backup can be more severe if you are lying down or bent over.

Risk factors

Some foods and beverages can cause heartburn, such as:

  • Spicy food
  • Onions
  • Citrus products
  • Tomato products such as tomato ketchup
  • Fatty and fried foods
  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeinated drinks, alcohol, carbonated beverages, and coffee are all acceptable
  • Fatty or large meals

Heartburn can also be caused by being overweight or pregnant.

Complications

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is a condition that causes heartburn to occur frequently and disrupt your daily life.GERDSometimes, prescription medication and surgery are required in order to treat the condition.GERDThis can cause serious damage to your esophagus and precancerous changes in your esophagus known as Barrett’s esophagus.

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