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.
What Is The Difference Between Heartburn And Acid Reflux
Heartburn is a symptom of acid reflux. Heartburn describes a feeling of burning, pain, or discomfort in the chest that can be quite uncomfortable. You also may a sour or bitter taste in the throat and mouth, and it usually occurs after you eat a big meal or when you lay down.
Not everyone with GERD will experience heartburn. Other symptoms of acid reflux include regurgitation of acid into the throat or mouth, a bitter taste in the mouth, upset stomach, belching, nausea after eating, feeling full, stomach and upper abdomen bloating, dry cough, wheezing, hoarseness, feeling of tightness in the throat, and in some people, vomiting.
What Lifestyle Changes Relieve Heartburn
There are several ways to treat and avoid heartburn with lifestyle changes .
Lose weight and maintain your ideal weight. Excess weight increases the pressure on the stomach, increasing the chance of acid reflux into the esophagus.
Avoid foods that aggravate heartburn and replace them with healthy foods. Avoid foods that trigger heartburn . Consider keeping a food journal to alert you to foods that make your heartburn worse. Decrease the amount of food you eat.
Elevate the head of the bed: If you are experiencing heartburn at night, elevating the head of the bed will decrease reflux.
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How Is Gerd Treated
Treatment for GERD depends on how severe symptoms are. For some people, treatment may just include lifestyle changes, such as changing what they eat or drink. Others will need to take medicines. In very rare cases, when GERD is particularly severe, a doctor will recommend surgery.
These lifestyle changes can help ease the symptoms of GERD or even prevent the condition:
- quitting smoking
- avoiding carbonated beverages
- avoiding foods that trigger reflux
It also can help to not lie down for 3 hours after a meal and to not eat 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Doctors sometimes also recommend raising the head of the bed about 6 to 8 inches. Before you start a major bedroom makeover, though, talk to your doctor and your parents about the best sleeping position for you.
If symptoms continue, doctors might prescribe medicine, such as:
- H2 blockers, which can help block the production of stomach acid
- proton pump inhibitors, which reduce the amount of acid the stomach makes
- prokinetics, which help the esophageal sphincter work better and the stomach empty faster. This can prevent reflux episodes.
Can You Have Acid Reflux And Not Know It
Acid reflux can manifest in different ways. Other patients may report extreme versions of acid reflux involving constant heartburn and regurgitation, while others might only report trouble swallowing and coughing.
Alternatively, there is another form of esophageal reflux that doesnt exhibit the same symptoms as GERD or heartburn. If youre experiencing classic reflux symptoms such as coughing and sleep apnea, you may be experiencing what is known as silent reflux.
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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 .
What Can You Do About Your Heartburn
A good rule of thumb is to seek medical attention if you have more than two episodes of heartburn a week especially if you notice difficulty swallowing, weight loss or anemia, Dr. Gabbard says.
Your doctor may help you lose weight or adjust your medications.
A change in blood pressure medicine may help reduce your heartburn symptoms, for instance. Or your doctor may suggest a proton pump inhibitor such as Prilosec OTC® or Nexium® to help control your GERD.
If your heartburn is worse at night, changing your sleeping position may help. Dr. Gabbard recommends using a body pillow or sleep-positioning device that helps keep you on your left side with your head elevated.
Finally, he has a warning for men over 50 who have chronic heartburn.
If at least two of these conditions apply you are Caucasian, have abdominal obesity, are a former or current smoker you may have a higher risk for Barretts esophagus, a precancerous condition that can lead to esophageal cancer.
Even if you are feeling fine, you should see your doctor. He or she may recommend a one-time scope examination to make sure there are no signs of the condition.
There is no pill to strengthen and restore your sphincter muscle to its younger days. But you can work with your doctor to reduce that burning sensation as you age.
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What Are The Signs & Symptoms Of Gerd
Often, people who have GERD notice that they regularly have the pain of heartburn in the chest or stomach. This can last up to a couple of hours. Many notice their heartburn is worse after eating.
Regurgitation when food and liquid containing stomach acid comes back up into the throat or mouth is also a sign of GERD. But, like heartburn, occasional regurgitation is common for everyone.
Other symptoms of GERD include:
- a sore, raw throat or hoarse voice
- a frequent sour taste of acid, especially when lying down
- a feeling of burping acid into the mouth
- trouble swallowing
- bad breath
How Is Esophageal Cancer Diagnosed
The doctor will ask you about your medical history, including your current symptoms. After a physical examination, the doctor might order certain tests that can help in diagnosing and assessing esophageal cancer.
- Barium swallow uses a special series of X-rays to visualize the esophagus. The patient drinks a liquid containing barium, which makes the esophagus easier to see on the X-ray.
- Esophagoscopy is a procedure that allows the doctor to look at the inside of the esophagus using a thin, lighted tube called an endoscope. For the test, the endoscope is passed through the mouth and down the throat into the esophagus while you are asleep. The endoscopy can also be used to relieve obstruction. The doctor can insert a balloon to dilate an obstructed esophagus. Looking at the esophagus and the upper part of the stomach is called anupper endoscopy.
- Biopsy: During the esophagoscopy, the doctor may remove a small piece of tissue to examine under a microscope to see if there are any cancer cells.
- Esophageal endoscopic ultrasound uses sound waves to create images of internal structures. In this procedure, the ultrasound is performed through the esophagoscope.
- Computed tomography is often used to evaluate the extent of the tumor spread to the chest and abdomen.
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Causes And Risk Factors
The food pipe becomes narrower just before it reaches the stomach. This narrow part is normally kept shut by the muscles in the food pipe and diaphragm. But this doesn’t work properly in GERD. It is often not clear why.
In some people it is caused by a hiatal hernia . The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities from each other. The food pipe passes through a small hole in the diaphragm and enters the stomach just below it. In people who have a hiatal hernia, the upper part of the stomach pushes up through the hole in the diaphragm and into the chest cavity. As a result, the diaphragm can no longer help to close the entrance to the stomach.
There is some debate about whether being overweight, smoking and drinking alcohol can affect the sphincter or the risk of reflux and heartburn. Many of those affected say that their symptoms are triggered or made worse by stress or by certain foods or drinks. The symptoms may also get worse after physical activities or through certain positions, such as bending forward or lying down.
Sometimes reflux symptoms and heartburn are caused by a problem with the food pipe. For instance, the food pipe might not move rising stomach juices back down into the stomach fast enough, or it might react very sensitively. The symptoms can also be made worse by medications such as birth control pills and certain drugs against high blood pressure.
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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Your Heartburn Feels More Severe Than Usual
Almost everyone has heartburn from time to time, but if you have a particularly severe episode of it, you should bypass making a doctor’s appointment and head straight for the hospital. The chest pain that comes with heartburn is often very similar to a heart attack, so don’t write off a persistent or acute ache as heartburn. A heart attack is usually differentiated from heartburn by shortness of breath, sweating and dizziness, but when in doubt, head to the hospital.
Complicating the matter, certain medications taken by those with cardiac issues often bring on acid reflux or heartburn. Calcium channel blockers, which decrease blood pressure, and nitrates, used for coronary artery disease, can cause acid reflux. If you suspect that a heart medication is bringing on heartburn or acid reflux, speak to your doctor before making any changes to your meds or diet.
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
Heart Attack Feeling
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Heartburn Or Heart Attack
A heart attack is when the arteries connected to the heart become blocked. Heartburn, on the other hand, occurs when stomach acid travels back up the esophagus.
Some symptoms of heartburn and a heart attack could be similar, such as chest pain. As a result, some people who are having a heart attack do not take action as they think they have heartburn.
If a person experiences heartburn pain alongside shortness of breath or sweating, this could be a heart-related issue.
Other symptoms of a heart attack
What Is Gastroesophageal Reflux
Gastroesophageal reflux , also called reflux, is when food and acid from the stomach go back up into the esophagus. This causes an uncomfortable feeling in the chest, often called heartburn.
With GER, reflux happens after nearly every meal and causes noticeable discomfort. After eating, people with GER feel a burning sensation in the chest, neck, and throat.
While its more common in adults, kids, teens, and even babies can have gastroesophageal reflux.
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When Should Someone See A Doctor About Heartburn
Galier says if you are reaching for antacids more days than not, you should see your doctor.
Eisen considers heartburn “occasional” if it occurs once a week or less. He says itâs time to seek medical help if you have had heartburn more than once a week for six months or longer more and are not getting better.
How Long Can Heartburn Last
Since youre reading this, youve probably already experienced that burning sensation called heartburn. In case you havent, and are just here out of curiosity, then lucky you!
Despite being extremely uncomfortable, heartburn is normally not dangerous as that unpleasant feeling should pass soon enough. But if the pain just doesnt seem to go away, you might be wondering how long heartburn can actually last.
Its definitely good to be prepared, and at least have some idea about this incredibly annoying condition, so keep reading to find all the answers.
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When Should I Call My Doctor About My Heartburn
Even though heartburn is common, it can sometimes lead to more serious health problems. Severe, chronic heartburn has been linked to inflammation and narrowing of the esophagus, respiratory problems, chronic cough, GERD, and Barretts esophagus, which may lead to esophageal cancer.
You should contact your doctor if:
- Your heartburn wont go away.
- Your heartburn symptoms become more severe or frequent.
- Its hard or hurts to swallow.
- Your heartburn causes you to vomit.
- You have had substantial, unexpected weight loss.
- You take over-the-counter antacids for more than two weeks and you still have heartburn symptoms.
- You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription medicines.
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Can Acid Reflux Cause Chest Pain
Chest pain is one of the most common symptoms of acid reflux. Chest pain related to reflux is also called noncardiac chest pain . Chest pain occurs during reflux episodes because the heart and the esophagus share a nerve network. Acid reflux, specifically GERD, causes up to 66% of reported NCCPs.
Evaluating Your Chest Pain
Since chest pain from acid reflux and more serious conditions such as heart attack are hard to distinguish, its important to know how to evaluate your chest pain. Chest pain from acid reflux often affects the sternum or the area below it called the epigastrium. Pain from acid reflux is often characterized as a sharp pain, which gets worse with coughing.
Meanwhile, chest pain from non-acid reflux sources could be described as a deep, searing pain. Heart-related chest pain often radiates to other parts of the body including the back, neck, shoulders, and arms.
The symptoms that accompany chest pain are also key in evaluating the nature of the pain. Gastro-related chest pain is often accompanied by burping or flatulence, trouble swallowing, bile regurgitation, and a burning sensation in the throat or stomach.
Cardiac-related chest pain is often accompanied by numbness in the left arm or shoulder, shortness of breath, dizziness, and high body temperatures.
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If You Or Your Child Has Trouble Swallowing
If youve had heartburn or acid reflux for so long that you have trouble swallowing, then its a sign that damage to the esophagus has been building for awhile. The esophagus may be inflamed, scarred or full of ulcers, indicating esophageal cancer. Other symptoms to be on the look out for include nausea and vomiting, particularly if youre vomiting blood.
Its important to note that children can suffer from heartburn and acid reflux as well. Unless you have an extremely advanced child, he or she probably wont be able to put the discomfort into words, so take note if a baby experiences trouble swallowing. Other signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease in children are repeated regurgitation, asthmalike symptoms, frequent arching of the back and irritability after feedings. The good news? Many infants and children outgrow the condition, though dont sit around and wait for them to do so: See a doctor.
So How Long Does Heartburn Last
Sadly, its difficult to say how long your heartburn is going to last, as this depends on each individual. For some it goes away after a few minutes, and with others it can stick around for hours or even days.
If youre experiencing the milder form of this condition that usually occurs after eating certain foods, then your heartburn symptoms can last until your body has digested the meal. The symptoms can also return when you lie down or bend over, as this puts extra pressure on the sphincter muscle.
If youre not among the lucky ones who only get heartburn during the day, you might be wondering how long heartburn can last at night. This form is known to be the most painful, and can even keep you up the whole night, and its also the most dangerous, since the stomach acid can stay in your oesophagus for longer, causing more damage to it. Night-time heartburn can also point to a more serious underlying medical condition, one that should be checked by a doctor.
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