Heartburn

1 What is Heartburn?

Heartburn is a burning pain located in the chest, just behind the breastbone.

This pain is usually worsened when lying down or bending oever. Occasion heartburn is very common and has no cause for alarm.

Most individuals can manage the discomfort brought by heartburn on their own by simply changing their lifestyle and using over-the-counter medication.

Heartburn that occurs more frequently or that which interest with daily life may be a symptom of a more serious condition that requires medical attention.

2 Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of heartburn include: A burning pain in the chest that usually occurs after a meal and may also occur at night.

Pain usually worsens when one is bent over or lying down. It is important to seek medical care when one experiences severe chest pain or pressure especially when combined with othe symptoms like pain in the arm or jaw and difficulty breathing.

Chest pain may also be  be symptom of a heart attack. It is encouraged to make an appointment with a doctor if heartburn occurs more than twice a week.

Symptoms may persist despite use of over-the-counter medications.

Other symptoms include

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3 Causes

Heartburn is caused when stomach acid backs up into the esophagus.

Normally when swallowing takes place, a band of muscle around the bottom of the esophagus know as the the lower esophageal shincter, relaxes to allow food and liquid to flow down into the stomach.

If the lower esophageal sphincter relaxes abnormally or weakens, stomach acid can flow back upwards into the esophagus (aci reflux) and cause heartburn.

The acid backup is worse when one is bent over or lying down.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Reporting the symptoms of heartburn is usually all that is needed for your doctor to make a diagnosis.

You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the digestive system (gastroenterologist).

What you can do

Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions, such as not eating solid food on the day before your appointment.

Write down your symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason why you scheduled the appointment. Make a list of all your medications, vitamins and supplements. Write down your key medical information, including other conditions. Write down key personal information, including any recent changes or stressors in your life. Ask a relative or friend to accompany you, to help you remember what the doctor says. Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What kinds of tests do I need?
  • Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • What treatments are available?
  • Should I remove or add any foods to my diet?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?

In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may make time to go over points you want to spend more time on. You may be asked:

  • When did you first begin experiencing symptoms, and how severe are they?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve or worsen your symptoms?
  • Are they worse after meals or lying down?
  • Do your symptoms wake you up at night?
  • Does food or sour material ever come up in the back of your throat?
  • Do you experience nausea or vomiting?
  • Do you have difficulty swallowing?
  • Have you lost or gained weight?

What you can doin the meantime

Try lifestyle changes to control your symptoms until you see your doctor. For instance, avoid foods that trigger your heartburn and avoid eating at least two hours before bedtime.

To determine if your heartburn is a symptom of GERD, your doctor may recommend:

  • X-ray, to view the shape and condition of your esophagus and stomach.
  • Endoscopy, to check for abnormalities in your esophagus.
  • A tissue sample (biopsy) may be taken for analysis.
  • Ambulatory acid probe tests, to identify when, and for how long, stomach acid backs up into your esophagus.
  • An acid monitor that is placed in your esophagus connects to a small computer that you wear around your waist or on a strap over your shoulder.
  • Esophageal motility testing, to measure movement and pressure in your esophagus.

5 Treatment

There are a large number of over-the-counter (OTC) medications available to treat heartburn or the symptoms of heartburn.They include:

  • Antacids, which help neutralize stomach acid. These can be a source of quick relief but cannot heal an esophagus damaged by stomach acid.
  • H-2-receptor antaagonists (H2RAs), which can reduce stomach acid. H2RAs do no act as quickly as antiacids do, but may provide long relief.
  • Proton Pump Inhibitors, such as lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR) amd omeprazole (Prilosec OTC), which can reduce stomach acid.

In the situation where over-the-counter medications don't work or one relies on them often, it is vital to see a doctor and obtain prescription medication.

6 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Several alternative remedies exist to ease your heartburn symptoms.

Anxiety and stress can aggravate heartburn symptoms.

Some alternative treatments may help one to cope with anxiety and stress.

If heartburn is worsen by these two sensations, consider trying the following:

  • Aromatherapy, gentle exercise like walking or riding a bike but avoiding vigorous exercise which usually worsens a heartburn.
  • Hypnosis, listening to music, massage and other relaxation techniques like guided imagery can also be used.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle changes are one of the major solutions to helping ease heartburn.

Maintaining a healthy wight. Excess weight puts pressure on the abdomen, pushing up the stomach and causing acid to go back into the esophagus.

Avoiding tightfitting clothing, which puts pressure on the abdomen and the lower esophageal sphincter.

Also avoiding food  that trigger the heartburn.

One should also avoid lying down after a meal and avoiding late meals.

It is important to eleveta the head of the bed if one regularly experiences heartburn during sleep hours. Raising the head with additional pillows usually is not affective.

It is also vital avoid smoking.

8 Risks and Complications

There are several risks associated with heartburn.

Certain foods and drinks have the capability to trigger heartburn in some people, these foods may include:

  • spicy foods,
  • onion,
  • tomato products,
  • citrus products,
  • peppermint,
  • chocolate,
  • alcohol,
  • carbonated beverages,
  • coffee or other caffeinated beverages
  • and large or fatty meals.

Being overweight or pregnant can also increase the risk of experiencing heartburn.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is heartburn that occurs frequently and interferes with one's routine. GERD treatment may require prescription medication and occasionally, surgery or other procedures. GERD can have a devactating impact on the esophagus.

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