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Can Constant Heartburn Be Serious

What Are The Main Symptoms Of Gerd

Woman’s Doctor: When chronic heartburn gets serious

The main symptoms are persistent heartburn and acid regurgitation. Some people have GERD without heartburn. Instead, they experience pain in the chest, hoarseness in the morning or trouble swallowing. You may feel like you have food stuck in your throat, or like you are choking or your throat is tight. GERD can also cause a dry cough and bad breath.

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How Long Heartburn Lasts

Heartburn can last anywhere from several minutes to a few hours, depending on the underlying cause.

For example, after eating a spicy meal, mild heartburn can last for as long as it takes to digest the food but the symptoms may reoccur a few hours after youve eaten, when you lie down in bed at night or when bending over.

Bending over allows gravity to help pull the acid from the stomach, potentiating the severity of heartburn symptoms. The symptoms often awaken a person during the night, while sleeping.

Occasional heartburn goes away on its own and can often be prevented by avoiding certain foods . But when heartburn is severe, it usually requires medical treatment.

What Are The Symptoms Of Acid Reflux And Oesophagitis

  • Heartburn: this is the main symptom. This is a burning feeling which rises from the upper tummy or lower chest up towards the neck.
  • Other common symptoms: these include pain in the upper abdomen and chest, feeling sick, an acid taste in the mouth, bloating, belching, indigestion and a burning pain when you swallow hot drinks. Like heartburn, these symptoms tend to come and go and tend to be worse after a meal.
  • Some uncommon symptoms: these may occur and if they do, can make the diagnosis difficult, as these symptoms can mimic other conditions. For example:
  • A persistent cough, particularly at night, sometimes occurs. This is due to the refluxed acid irritating the windpipe . Asthma symptoms of cough and wheeze can sometimes be due to acid leaking up .
  • Other mouth and throat symptoms sometimes occur, such as gum problems, bad breath, sore throat, hoarseness and a feeling of a lump in the throat.
  • Severe chest pain develops in some cases .

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Preparing For Your Appointment

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic

You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:

  • What are your main symptoms? Report any symptoms, such as abdominal pain, a change in bowel habits, or vomiting.
  • How long have you had heartburn?
  • Have you had this problem before? If so, do you know what caused the problem at that time? How was it treated? How did you respond to that treatment?
  • Have you had any signs of bleeding from your digestive system?
  • Have you had any difficulty swallowing when you eat or drink?
  • How much tobacco do you use? How much alcohol do you drink? How much caffeine do you drink?
  • Has your weight increased or decreased more than 5 lb recently?
  • Have there been any changes in your diet? Are you eating certain foods more often?
  • Have there been changes in your daily schedule, such as when you eat and when you go to bed?
  • Are you taking any nonprescription or prescription medicines? Bring a list of all the medicines you are taking to your appointment.
  • What home treatment measures have you tried? Did they help? Be sure to include lifestyle changes you have made.
  • What nonprescription medicines have you taken or used to treat your heartburn? Did they help?
  • Do you have any ?

It will be easier to make lifestyle changes if your family understands the reasons for the changes. Take a friend or family member to the appointment with you, and discuss diet and sleeping habits with your doctor.

Constant Heartburn Can Be A Sign Of A More Significant Issue Heres When To Seek Help

5 Signs That Your Heartburn Might Be a Serious Problem

Experiencing heartburn every now and then is normal. Sometimes the uncomfortable sensation comes on after eating a spicy meal, for example. However, if you get heartburn repeatedly, the constant irritation could lead to long-term damage and more serious conditions.

We chatted with Chetan Aher, M.D., a general surgeon with Vanderbilt Health, to find out why we should be paying attention to heartburn symptoms and how to know when to seek treatment.

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Check If You Have Acid Reflux

The main symptoms of acid reflux are:

  • heartburn a burning sensation in the middle of your chest
  • an unpleasant sour taste in your mouth, caused by stomach acid

You may also have:

  • a cough or hiccups that keep coming back
  • a hoarse voice

Your symptoms will probably be worse after eating, when lying down and when bending over.

When To See A Healthcare Provider

You should see a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and for proper treatment if:

  • You have constant heartburn that won’t subside
  • Your symptoms of heartburn are becoming more severe or frequent
  • You have taken an over-the-counter PPI for the recommended two weeks and your symptoms return
  • You experience vomiting or difficulty swallowing with your heartburn
  • You have hoarseness or wheezing
  • You experience unexpected weight loss

Untreated acid disorders can lead to complications, including Barrett’s esophagus , esophageal cancer, or scarring or narrowing of the esophagus.

You should seek care immediately if you vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds . You should also seek care immediately if you notice blood in your stools or have black or tar-like stools .

If your vomiting is large, green, yellow, or forceful, you should seek care urgently by going to an emergency room.

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B Infections Of The Esophagus

Infections of the esophagus are rare. They mainly affect people with poor immunity or debilitating disease. A healthy person is unlikely to have an esophageal infection.

The commonest type of infection of esophageal infection is a fungal infection . However, bacteria and viruses can also cause esophagitis.

Infections of the esophagus can cause sudden onset of heartburn every day. Infections are often diagnosed based on patients risk factors and by their endoscopy picture.

What Is The Difference Between Regular Heartburn And Gerd

Your Everyday Heartburn Could Be Serious – CU Medicine

Everyone has heartburn from time to time. Theres nothing unusual about that. Generally, taking an antacid helps. However, if youre popping Tums more than three times a week, its time to speak to your doctor.

The technical definition of GERD is mild acid reflux that occurs twice a week or moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs once a week. When over-the-counter medicines dont make a dent in the horrible heartburn, you likely have GERD.

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Most Common Symptoms Of Gerd

Lets start by running through the most common symptoms of GERD. Well then focus in on some of the more severe GERD symptoms.

Once you know these GERD Symptoms well youll be able to take the actions you need to relieve yourself quickly, as well as having the peace of mind of knowing when your symptoms are bad enough for you to need medical assistance.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of GERD:

  • Indigestion
  • A sour, acidic taste in the mouth

Not All Of Them Are Obvious

Feel like you just cant keep that nasty stuff in your belly from bubbling up into your throat? What youre experiencing might not be run-of-the-mill heartburn. It could be a case of gastroesophageal reflux diseaseGERD, for shorta condition that causes the acid and food in your stomach to rise into your esophagus, and sometimes even enter your mouth or lungs. GERD is far from rare: In fact, it occurs in 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to the medical journal Gastroenterology. But there are also several factors that make some people an easier target for the disease.

Everyone has a small, normal amount of gastroesophageal reflux, but an abnormal amount of acid reflux occurs when the one-way valve between the esophagus and the stomach, called the lower esophageal sphincter, becomes too loose, says Ketan Shah, M.D., gastroenterologist at Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, California. This can occur for multiple reasons that cause intra-abdominal pressure to be abnormally elevated, including being overweight or obese, frequent overeating, lying down too soon after eating, chronic straining or coughing, or chronic heavy lifting. These are typically the people who are more susceptible to GERD.

Heartburn won’t go away

Bitter taste

Trouble swallowing

Heart Attack Feeling

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Tips To Keep Heartburn On The Backburner

To prevent occasional bouts of heartburn, try taking the following five steps:

1. Avoid eating within three hours of the time you go to bed.

2. Take any acid suppressant medication, such as a proton pump inhibitor, first thing in the morning. “Because of the way proton pump inhibitor-type medications activate, it’s not helpful to take these medications at night on an empty stomach,” says Brown.

3. Sleep on a slight incline, with your head elevated, and/or sleep on your left side. If you have chronic heartburn, falling asleep in the wrong position enables acid to sneak into the esophagus. Keeping your head raised slightly keeps that from happening. Studies have also found that while sleeping on the right side actually aggravates heartburn, flipping over to your left side is likely to calm it, although the reason why is unknown.

4. Avoid foods that may cause acid reflux, such as peppermint, coffee and chocolate. “Interestingly, spicy foods haven’t been shown to cause heartburn,” says Brown. “And there’s some evidence that spicy foods may actually protect the body from ulcers.”

5. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, quit. Not only does smoking relax the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing stomach acid to move up into the esophagus where it doesn’t belong, but it also can slow the production of saliva, which protects against acid in the esophagus.

How Do Antacids Work To Treat Heartburn

Heartburn Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Antacids reduce the amount of stomach acid, relieving your heartburn. These medications can also be used to soothe stomach upset, indigestion and other pains in your stomach. Some antacids contain simethicone, which reduces gas. Antacids that you can get without a prescription include:

  • Tums®.
  • Maalox®.
  • Gaviscon®.

Make sure you always follow the instructions on the package or talk to your doctor about the right way to use an antacid. If you use tablets, chew them well before swallowing for faster relief.

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What To Do If Youre Experiencing A Heartburn

When in doubt about acid reflux, it is always better to be cautious and get it checked out at The Emergency Center, which has the tools and experts needed to determine the right diagnosis and start treatment.

The Emergency Center has diagnostic capabilities like ECG and advanced CT imaging to diagnose or rule out heart attack. Additionally, with an onsite lab and pharmacy, patients can find answers without the wait and get needed prescriptions before leaving. Whether it ends up being just a bad case of heartburn or something more serious, going to get evaluated is the first step in finding both care and something equally as important: peace of mind.

Enjoy life. Well be here for the bumps along the way.

Why Do I Get Heartburn When I Havent Eaten

If you visit a doctor to talk about your heartburn, one of the first things they will ask is your diet.

As most people know and what we constantly mention, heartburn is often caused by what you eat and what you drink, so your doctor wants to be sure you are eating a diet that wont provoke any additional symptoms before moving into treatment options.

If youre getting heartburn without eating anything, here are some of the reasons:

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What Are Gerd Symptoms

Obviously, heartburn is the main symptom, and its generally worse at night. Not sure if you have GERD? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my heartburn make it difficult to sleep?
  • Do I have swallowing problems?
  • Do I sometimes spit up food or sour liquid?
  • Do I feel a lump in my throat?
  • Have I had a chronic cough or laryngitis with my heartburn?
  • Do I have chest pain?

Wed like to take a minute to elaborate on one of those symptoms: chest pain. You should always seek immediate medical care if you have chest pain, especially if its accompanied by jaw pain, shortness of breath or arm pain. These could be signs of a heart attack.

When Should You Go To An Er For Acid Reflux

Prevent Heartburn Cancer

Some people who experience acid reflux may think that other symptoms that might occur at the same time as reflux are simply part of the bodys reflux response. However, symptoms that go beyond regular heartburn are probably not just incidental and could be a sign of something more serious.

These symptoms accompanying acid reflux should always mean a trip to the emergency room:

  • Feeling confused or sudden weakness
  • When the reflux moves/relocates from how you typically experience it
  • Fainting/loss of consciousness, even briefly
  • Vomit that has blood in it or is black
  • Stool that is black and/or accompanied by blood

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Serious Conditions That Mimic Heartburn

In a previous blog post, we discussed several serious health conditions that could be signaled by chronic heartburn: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease , Barretts Esophagus and esophageal cancer.

Lets continue the discussion with six more medical conditions that cause pain that mimics the sensations you feel with heartburn.

Antacids For Neutralizing Stomach Acid

When it comes to heartburn, medicines such as antacids are available over the counter and can be quite effective. These medicines work by simply neutralizing stomach acid. There can be a bit of a double-edged sword in this case though.

If youre suffering from regular heartburn and you rely on antacids to relieve the pain, youre not dealing with the underlying problem and damage may still be occurring to your esophagus .

To avoid developing more serious GERD-related problems, you should seek medical help to get treatment for the actual causes of the problem.

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A Pharmacist Can Help With Heartburn And Acid Reflux

Speak to a pharmacist for advice if you keep getting heartburn.

They can recommend medicines called antacids that can help ease your symptoms.

It’s best to take these with food or soon after eating, as this is when you’re most likely to get heartburn. They may also work for longer if taken with food.

What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

What Helps With Severe Heartburn?

Gastroesophageal reflux disease is when someone has reflux more than twice a week. It’s a more serious condition than GER. Doctors usually treat it with medicine.

GERD can be a problem if it’s not treated because, over time, the reflux of stomach acid damages the tissue lining the esophagus, causing inflammation and pain. In adults, long-lasting, untreated GERD can lead to permanent damage of the esophagus.

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When Heartburn Becomes Acid Reflux

There is a fairly simple way to know if heartburn is caused by gastroesophageal acid reflux disease, commonly known as acid reflux. As Andrew Gawron, MD, a gastroenterologist with University of Utah Health puts it, The definition of gastroesophageal acid reflux disease is when reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus cause troublesome symptoms or complications that impact the quality of life.

In other words, if heartburn is frequent enough that it causes problems that make your quality of life diminished, you may have acid reflux disease. This might mean that youre unable to sleep at night because of pain, or you might go so far as to find that acid is eating away at the lining of the throat or esophagus. In some cases, GERD can also predispose someone to a pre-cancerous condition in the esophagus called Barretts esophagus.

When Heartburn Gets Serious

Ignoring heartburn — just putting up with it, popping a few pills day after day — isn’t necessarily the best plan. There are complications that can result from letting the problem linger.

“When heartburn is not appropriately treated, acid reflux can cause erosion and ulcers in the lining of the esophagus,” says William C. Orr, PhD, a clinical professor of medicine and specialist in gastrointestinal disorders at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

“It’s extremely painful and greatly affects the patient’s lifestyle,” he tells WebMD. “It really alters very significantly the quality of life.”

Long-term acid reflux can cause scarring and narrowing in the esophagus, which can also lead to swallowing difficulties, Radhika Srinivasan, MD, a gastrointestinal specialist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, tells WebMD.

This condition, called esophageal strictures, can interfere with eating and drinking by preventing food and liquid from reaching the stomach. Strictures are treated by dilation, in which an instrument gently stretches the strictures and expands the opening in the esophagus.

In fairly rare cases, chronic acid reflux can also cause a pre-cancerous condition called “Barrett’s esophagus,” she adds. Barrett’s esophagus is a result of the chronic acid reflux into the esophagus causing dangerous changes in the cells that line the esophagus — these cells can become cancerous.

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You Have A Chronic Cough

Coughing can be caused by anything from a cold to asthma, so it can be difficult to determine whether or not its related to your heartburn. But, if you have a persistent cough that wont go away in addition to heartburn, the two may be making each other worse. Because untreated heartburn can damage the lining of your esophagus, it can often lead to heartburn. Likewise, untreated coughing can damage your esophagus leading to heartburn!

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