Heartburn (pyrosis) is a common condition. Occasional heartburn is not a cause for concern. However, heartburn which occurs often can be a symptom of gastric reflux. Left untreated, gastric reflux can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition, sometimes what seems to be heartburn is a sign of a heart attack, so if the chest pain is severe or you are also experiencing shortness of breath, pain in the arm or jaw or any other symptom of a heart attack, seek medical attention immediately.
The major symptom of heartburn is a burning feeling in chest most often after eating or late at night. The pain tends to get worse when you lie down or bend over. It usually starts in chest and spreads to the neck, throat, or jaw. Heartburn is caused when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to you to your stomach. Most commonly the muscle which is supposed to stop this from happening (lower esophageal sphincter) weakens or relaxes when it shouldn’t.
Almost half the population will has heartburn at one point in their life. However, some foods and drinks seem more likely to trigger heartburn for most people. These include spicy foods, citrus, alcohol, carbonated drinks, coffee, and large amounts of fatty foods. Being overweight or pregnant or overeating may also increase your risk of developing heartburn. .
Diagnosis may include an X-ray, endoscopy, ambulatory acid probe tests, and esophageal motility tests. Antacids can be used to treat mild heartburn. If your heartburn continues, your doctor may prescribe different medication. If you have frequent symptoms of heartburn, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. If your diagnosis includes GERD, support groups can be a good resource of information and can help connect you with others living with GERD.