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How Can You Tell If You Have Heartburn

How Is It Diagnosed

4 Things To Avoid If You Have Heartburn

If you’re experiencing heartburn, make sure to track your symptoms. For example, how often does it happen in a day? Does it happen after eating? You can bring this list to your provider to help make a faster and better diagnosis.

After discussing your symptoms and medical history with you, your provider can usually diagnose heartburn easily.

What Is Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is a very common medical condition. Also known as gastroesophageal reflux , acid reflux occurs when stomach acid flows back up into your esophagus. Acid reflux can trigger an episode of heartburn, usually after eating a big meal, drinking alcohol or acidic coffee.

Making lifestyle changes works well for treating occasional acid reflux. Suggestions include:

  • Lose excess weight
  • Fried or fatty foods
  • Acidic foods like tomato sauce and pizza

Occasional acid reflux can be treated with antacids or H2-receptor blockers . H2 blockers have been used successfully since the 1970s.

Causes

A small, circular muscle, the lower esophageal sphincter , connects your esophagus to your stomach. The LES is supposed to tighten your esophagus once your food has passed through to the stomach. If the LES is weak or not functioning properly, stomach acid can leak backward into your esophagus.

Pregnancy can also cause acid reflux, of which symptoms can increase as the pregnancy progresses and pressure is placed against internal organs.

Symptoms

Besides heartburn, acid reflux can cause other symptoms:

  • Persistent, dry and nagging cough
  • Sore throat
  • Burning and pressure in the chest area
  • Bitter taste in the back of the throat
  • Sour taste in the mouth

What Heartburn Feels Like

You get this problem when stomach acid moves into a tube called the esophagus, which carries food from your mouth to the stomach. When that happens, you could have a burning pain in your chest. Your throat might burn, and you could have a sour taste in your mouth or a cough. You may also hear it called GERD , which is heartburn that happens often. But other conditions can have similar symptoms.

Also Check: I Have Had Heartburn All Day

Are There Any Tests For Heartburn

If it is obvious from the symptoms that a person has heartburn, no tests or exams may be necessary. Advice in regard to lifestyle modifications, diet, or medications may begin immediately.

If your health care professional is not sure about the diagnosis, or if he or she is concerned about damage done by chronic heartburn, tests may be ordered. This is true especially if the patient has already been prescribed medications that are not relieving the heartburn.

There is no simple blood test for heartburn. The tests used to diagnose heartburn include the following:

What Foods And Drinks Cause Heartburn

How to Know if You Have Heartburn (with Pictures ...
    • Alcohol: Alcohol can relax the lower esophageal sphincter.
    • Coffee and orange or other acidic juices are some of the beverages that can worse or trigger heartburn.
    • Fatty foods, fried foods, and some acidic foods as well as spicy foods can cause heartburn.
    • Additional foods that make heartburn worse.

    Every person reacts somewhat differently to specific food groups. To track what foods worsen your symptoms, keep a food journal. In this journal, you should keep track of what you eat, the time you ate, any activity that worsened or made the heartburn better, and indicate which days you have heartburn symptoms. Over time, you will be able to correlate the offending foods with heartburn events. Print this and take this with you to your next doctor’s appointment to discuss possible causes of heartburn you may be experiencing.

    Heartburn Journal – Week of________________

      Pregnancy tends to aggravate heartburn because the lower esophageal sphincter is weakened during pregnancy. This weakened resolves after delivery of the baby. Pregnancy also distorts the organs in the abdomen and the increased abdominal pressure from the growing fetus causes heartburn. These changes promote the reflux of acid and heartburn.

      Approximately 17% to 45% of women who become pregnant will suffer from heartburn.

      Management of heartburn during pregnancy consists of many of the same home remedies and lifestyle changes for a person with heartburn who is not pregnant .

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      Is Heartburn A Symptom Of A Heart Attack

      Heartburn is often a symptom of GERD, but it can also be a symptom of a heart attack. In fact, heart attacks can cause other symptoms that usually happen with GERD, such as nausea, burping, and vomiting. In this case, the symptoms usually do not occur by themselves and will come with other symptoms that point to a more serious cause.

      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
      • losing weight if you are overweight
      • eating small meals
      • 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.

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      What Does Heartburn Feel Like

      Heartburn typically feels like a burning in the center of your chest, behind your breastbone. When you have heartburn, you may also feel symptoms like:

      • A burning feeling in your chest that can last anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
      • Pain in your chest when you bend over or lay down.
      • A burning feeling in your throat.
      • A hot, sour, acidic or salty taste in the back of your throat.
      • Difficulty swallowing.

      Not Sure If What Youre Feeling Is A Heart Attack Or Heartburn

      How Do I Know If I Have Reflux?

      I tell my patients that if you belch and the symptoms go away, it probably isnt related to your heart but to your esophagus, Bauman said. But if you have shortness of breath or sweating, then its likely a heart-related issue.

      However, everyone is different, and not all symptoms are caused by one or the other, so:

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      You Feel Nauseous After Meals Often

      Nausea is associated with so many things that it can be hard to attribute it to reflux. But, says Dr. Coyle, “in some people, the only manifestation they have of reflux is nausea. If you have nausea and can’t figure out why, one of the things think about is reflux.”

      And if the nausea tends to come on right after meals, that’s even more of an indication that it might be acid reflux. If so, a regular antacid treatment such as an over-the-counter acid-countering medicine could cut down on your discomfort.

      Causes Of Heartburn And Acid Reflux

      Lots of people get heartburn from time to time. There’s often no obvious reason why.

      Sometimes it’s caused or made worse by:

      • certain food and drink such as coffee, tomatoes, alcohol, chocolate and fatty or spicy foods
      • being overweight
      • some medicines, such as anti-inflammatory painkillers
      • a hiatus hernia when part of your stomach moves up into your chest

      Read Also: How To Cure Indigestion And Heartburn

      How Is Heartburn Treated

      In most cases, heartburn can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and changes to lifestyle habits that cause the feeling. Occasional heartburn is common and is typically not serious. However, if you have frequent and severe heartburn, reach out to your healthcare provider. This could be a sign of a chronic condition like GERD. GERD can lead to other serious conditions like esophagitis, Barretts esophagus and even cancer. Sometimes, your doctor may want to do an endoscopy to check for underlying medication conditions. An endoscopy is the examination of your digestive tract with a lighted flexible instrument.

      Over-the-counter medications for heartburn typically include antacids and acid blockers.

      Spasm Of The Esophagus

      How to Know if You Have Heartburn (with Pictures ...

      The esophagus is the muscular tube that passes behind the heart, and carries food, liquid, and saliva from the mouth to the stomach. In a condition called diffuse esophageal spasm , the tube contracts uncontrollably, causing trouble swallowing and chest pain.

      Rarity: Ultra rare

      Top Symptoms: dry cough, deep chest pain, behind the breast bone, heartburn, trouble swallowing, burning chest pain

      Symptoms that never occur with spasm of the esophagus: shortness of breath

      Urgency: Primary care doctor

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      Symptoms Of 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

      Symptoms are often worse after eating, when lying down and when bending over.

      What Are Prescription Medications For Heartburn

      If over-the-counter antacids and acid blockers do not relieve your heartburn, your healthcare provider may give you a prescription for other medicines, such as:

      • Prescription-strength acid blockers: In prescription-strength , Zantac®, Tagamet®, Pepcid® and Axid® can generally relieve heartburn and treat GERD.
      • Proton pump inhibitors: These are drugs that block acid production more effectively. Proton pump inhibitors include Aciphex®, Nexium®, Prevacid®, Prilosec® and Protonix®.

      There are some proton pump inhibitors that can be purchased over-the-counter. Talk to your healthcare provider about these medications and what is best for you.

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      How Is Gerd Diagnosed

      Tell your parents and visit your doctor if you’ve had heartburn that doesn’t seem to go away or any other symptoms of GERD for a while.

      The doctor will do an exam and ask about your symptoms. If the doctor suspects GERD, you might go see a pediatric gastroenterologist. This is a doctor who treats kids and teens who have problems of the gastrointestinal system.

      Doctors sometimes order these tests to diagnose GERD or rule out other possible problems:

      Your Asthma Gets Triggeredoften

      If You Have Acid Reflux, This is What You Should Know

      The coughing and wheezing from heartburn can get so bad they could become triggers for asthma.

      It is not clear, however, if frequent heartburn actually causes people to develop asthma. Although many people who have heartburn also have asthma and vice versa, the reasons for this overlap aren’t clear.

      Experts think stomach acid can trigger nerves in the chest to constrict your breathing tubes in order to keep acid from entering. Again, a simple pH test to look for acid in your esophagus may help you get to the bottom of the problem.

      Read Also: Why Do I Only Get Heartburn At Night

      What Are My Options If These Treatments Don’t Work

      If a person continues to have heartburn, a health care professional may recommend adding a drug such as metoclopramide . This drug empties food and acid quickly from the stomach so less can back up into the esophagus. Reglan also helps tighten the lower esophageal sphincter.

      If a person still have symptoms, a health care professional will then recommend one of the drugs called proton pump inhibitors. Examples of these drugs are omeprazole , lansoprazole , esomeprazole , rabeprazole , and pantoprazole . These tablets prevent the stomach from secreting acid. They are very effective and are typically taken only once a day. These drugs usually are prescribed if other drugs have not helped. They may have to be used indefinitely.

      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.

      Read Also: What Can I Take For Heartburn When Pregnant

      How Gastroenterologists Help With Gerd

      The key to treating your GERD: a board-certified gastroenterologist

      If you are suffering from chronic acid reflux, a specialist can help. GERD is a potentially serious condition, and it will not go away on its own. Untreated GERD can lead to inflammation of the esophagus and cause complications like ulcers, strictures and increased risk of Barretts esophagus, which is a precursor to esophageal cancer.

      A gastroenterologist is a physician with specialized training in managing diseases of the gastrointestinal tract . Our gastroenterologists are fellowship-trained and qualified to diagnose GERD and help develop a meet your treatment plan.

      How To Avoid Reflux

      How to Know if You Have Heartburn (with Pictures ...

      There are some things you can do to keep the heartburn away.

    • Stay away from alcohol, cigarettes, aspirin/anti-inflammatories and citrus , Bauman advised.
    • And if you experience heartburn at night, try giving gravity a hand. Raise the head of your bed on blocks so gravity can help keep your stomach contents down in the stomach, Bauman said.
    • Another possible remedy can be not to eat close to bedtime or late at night. When your stomach is full of food or busy digesting food, try letting it finish that work before heading to bed.
    • Some over-the-counter medications can also help.
    • See your doctor to discuss your symptoms.
    • Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.

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      A Gastroenterologist Shares Steps To Identifying And Managing The Symptoms Of Acid Reflux As Well As Potential Triggers

      Its never fun to experience discomfort after eating a good meal, but its a reality that thousands of people face every day. Gastroesophageal reflux diseasecommonly known as GERDis a chronic condition that affects the gastrointestinal system and causes uncomfortable symptoms, like heartburn. But GERD is more than just occasional heartburn: Its the recurring regurgitation of the stomach contents into the esophagus.

      Symptoms and What They Can Mimic

      People who suffer from GERD typically experience symptoms of reflux twice a week or more. Common symptoms of GERD can include heartburn, sour regurgitation, altered taste sensations and discomfort in the upper abdomen, says gastroenterologist Richard Denicola, MD. You can have any of these symptoms related to something else, but when they are persistent, it points to GERD.

      Less common symptoms of GERD can include painful swallowing, unexplained coughing, throat clearing, wheezing and chest pain.

      Its important to remember that GERD symptoms can sometimes mimic cardiac symptoms. So, if you experience chest pain of any kind, seek immediate medical attention to rule out anything serious. In addition, if youre having heartburn more than once per week, its a good idea to talk to your doctor about treatment options for GERD.

      Risk Factors

      Avoiding Potential Triggers

      Managing Chronic GERD

      How To Know If You Have Heartburn

      This article was co-authored by Peter Gardner, MD. Peter W. Gardner, MD is a board certified physician who has practiced Gastroenterology and Hepatology for over 30 years. He specializes in diseases of the digestive system and liver. Dr. Gardner earned his Bachelors degree from the University of North Carolina and attended Georgetown Medical School. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine and then his fellowship in Gastroenterology at the University of Connecticut. He is a previous Chief of Gastroenterology at Stamford Hospital and remains on the staff. He is also on the staff of Greenwich Hospital and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Gardner is an Approved Consultant in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology with the American Board of Internal Medicine.There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 33,847 times.

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      What Causes Acid Reflux And Whom Does It Affect

      The circular band of muscle at the bottom of the gullet normally prevents acid leaking up . Problems occur if the sphincter does not work very well. This is common but in most cases it is not known why it does not work so well. In some cases the pressure in the stomach rises higher than the sphincter can withstand – for example, during pregnancy, after a large meal, or when bending forward. If you have a hiatus hernia , you have an increased chance of developing reflux. See the separate leaflet called Hiatus Hernia for more details.

      Most people have heartburn at some time, perhaps after a large meal. However, about 1 adult in 3 has some heartburn every few days, and nearly 1 adult in 10 has heartburn at least once a day. In many cases it is mild and soon passes. However, it is quite common for symptoms to be frequent or severe enough to affect quality of life. Regular heartburn is more common in smokers, pregnant women, heavy drinkers, those who are overweight and those aged between 35 and 64 years.

      Knowing When To See The Doctor

      How Do I Know If I Have Acid Reflux?
    • 1Go to the emergency room with severe chest pain. If you are having severe chest pain, you should call an ambulance or go to the emergency room whether you think it’s acid reflux or not. It could be a heart attack instead of acid reflux.XResearch source
    • 2Visit the emergency room if you have other symptoms of a heart attack. If you have shortness of breath, are dizzy, or break out in a cold sweat, go to the emergency room or call an ambulance. You should have your heart checked out to make sure it’s ok.XTrustworthy SourceFamilyDoctor.orgFamily-focused medical advice site run by the American Academy of Family DoctorsGo to source
    • 3Visit your doctor if your heartburn is chronic. Having heartburn regularly or having chronic night symptoms is a sign of GERD. It can also lead to complications, such as food sticking in the bottom of your esophagus. Additionally, if you don’t control the symptoms, you can be at higher risk for other diseases, such as esophageal complications or esophageal cancer.XResearch source
    • Treatment includes over the counter medications and antacids as well as proton pump inhibitors. It is important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms because there are very effective medications available that can relieve you of discomfort.
    • Read Also: How To Stop Heartburn At Night

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