What is heartburn?


Know the basics

What is heartburn?

Heartburn is a sensation of burning that happens in your chest. It can be more painful when you lie down or bend your body over.

Heartburn can affect your normal activities and in some cases it is associated with other health conditions.

How common is heartburn?

Heartburn is a common condition that can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors and lifestyle changes as well as by over-the-counter medications. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of heartburn?

The common symptoms of heartburn are:

  • Feeling of pain and burning in the chest. This usually occurs after your meals or in the evening.
  • You feel more painful when you lie down or bend over.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Extremely chest pain;
  • Difficulty in breathing or swallowing;
  • Heartburn happens several times a week;
  • You cannot manage the pain with over-the-counter medications;
  • Nausea or vomiting;
  • Decrease in sense of taste, causing weight loss.

Know the causes

What causes heartburn?

Heartburn is caused by the acid flows upwards (reflux) from your stomach into your esophagus. When you swallow foods or drinks, the muscles at the end of your esophagus will expand to let them flow down into your stomach and then close up. However, when those muscles are weakened or being affected, stomach acid can turn right back into the esophagus and causes heartburn.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for heartburn?

There are some food and beverages that can increase risk for heartburn such as:

  • Spicy foods;
  • Onions;
  • Foods related to citrus or tomato;
  • Fried foods;
  • Peppermint;
  • Chocolate;
  • Alcohol and caffeine;
  • Being pregnant or obese also put you in a higher risk of heartburn.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is heartburn diagnosed?

Heartburn is diagnosed first by checking your physical symptoms and asking question about your medical history (when the symptoms start, if there is anyone in the family with the condition, etc.). Other tests include:

  • X-ray: this is to help the doctor have a look at your esophagus and stomach.
  • Endoscopy to check if there are any problems in the esophagus, he/she can also collect a tissue sample to analyze.
  • Ambulatory acid probe tests to detect the time and how long the acids get back into the esophagus.
  • Esophageal motility testing will measure the pressure in the esophagus.

How is heartburn treated?

Heartburn can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications including:

  • Antacids to neutralize stomach acid immediately.
  • H–2–receptor antagonists (H2RAs) reduce the amount of stomach acid produced and relieve the pain longer.
  • Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as lansoprazole and omeprazole.

If these medications do not work well then you should seek for your doctor for further approaches. Sometimes, heartburn surgery is performed in case of severe reflux that could not be managed by intensive medical therapy and causes hoarseness, pneumonia, or wheezing.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage heartburn?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with heartburn:

  • Manage your weight, avoid being obese to reduce the pressure to the stomach causing acids;
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing that can put more pressure on the abdomen;
  • Avoid foods listed above as risk factors for heartburn;
  • Do not lie down right after having meal, wait for at least 3 hours;
  • Avoid eating before going to bed;
  • Have more frequent meals with smaller portions;
  • Elevate the head when sleeping (use pillows);
  • Avoid smoking to keep the esophagus work properly.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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