When To See A Healthcare Provider
For any new symptoms of heartburn that occur more than twice a week and aren’t relieved by over-the-counter antacids, you should see your healthcare provider. It’s never too late to make that appointment if you have chronic heartburn, either.
Make an appointment with your healthcare provider if:
- Heartburn occurs more than twice a week
- Symptoms persist despite use of over-the-counter medications
- You have difficulty swallowing
- You have persistent nausea or vomiting
- You have weight loss because of a poor appetite or difficulty eating
Your healthcare provider will assess your digestive health and your heart health. The two of you can discuss a treatment plan that works for you.
Heartburn Healthcare Provider Discussion Guide
Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider’s appointment to help you ask the right questions.
You should see your healthcare provider immediately for the symptom of vomiting, especially if you have vomited a large amount, you frequently have forceful vomiting, or the vomited fluid is bloody, is green or yellow, or looks like it contains coffee grounds. Having problems breathing after vomiting is also an indication that you should see your healthcare provider immediately.
Not Sure If What Youre Feeling Is A Heart Attack Or Heartburn
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:
Heartburn Joint Pain And Pain Or Discomfort
- Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Reviewed on 10/9/2020
Your symptoms are common to number of different medical conditions that can be associated with heartburn and joint pain. All of these symptoms are relatively nonspecific and can be related to different types of illness. Heartburn may occur in response to dietary factors as an isolated incident, or it may be related to a chronic condition of the digestive tract. Be sure to seek medical advice if you are worried about any symptoms you are experiencing.
While the list below can be considered as a guide to educate yourself about these conditions, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms and signs. Here are a number of those from MedicineNet:
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Heartburn & Indigestion: When To Seek Emergency Medical Attention
Acid reflux, heartburn and indigestion are all terms used to describe that GI discomfort that everyone gets from time to time. A bout of acid reflux usually occurs after a big meal, eating too close to laying down for bed, or after eating or drinking something that does not settle right.
While uncomfortable, most of the time it is something temporary that can be managed at home with over-the-counter antacids or other medication. However, there are certain symptoms that can either accompany or be mistaken for acid reflux that require immediate medical care.
Throwing Up Liquid In Your Mouth
When the volume of gastric content refluxing into the esophagus is high enough, a sensation of liquid coming up the chest can be felt, says Dr. Gyawali. Doctors call this acid regurgitation.” Basically, youll feel like you just threw up a little in your mouth. The liquid may be warm and have a sour, salty, or acidic taste. Some people also feel like they have something stuck in their throat or chest.
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How Can I Prevent Heartburn
There are many steps you can take to help prevent heartburn:
- Avoid foods or drinks that may trigger your symptoms, such as acidic foods, high fat foods, spicy foods, chocolate, alcohol, mint, and carbonated drinks.
- Wait at least 3 hours after eating to lie down.
- Place blocks or books under your bed to elevate the head of your bed. This can help prevent stomach acid from traveling back up your esophagus.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes, which can put pressure on your stomach and lower esophageal sphincter.
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals rather than two or three large ones to help ease the impact on your digestive system.
- Chew sugarless gum after eating. A
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.
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Burning Sensation In Your Chest And/or Throat
That acidic sensation just behind your breastbone is the most well-known heartburn symptom. Your esophagus is lined with cells that arent resistant to gastric acid, C. Prakash Gyawali, MD, professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and spokesperson of the American Gastroenterological Association, tells Health. When excessive acid comes in contact with the esophageal lining, chemical sensors are stimulated that trigger the sensation of heartburn. You may notice this right after a meal, especially if you’ve consumed spicy or acidic food.
Can Heartburn Be Prevented Or Avoided
You might be able to avoid heartburn by making some lifestyle changes.
- Place 6- to 9-inch blocks under the legs at the head of your bed to raise it.
- Try to eat at least 2 to 3 hours before lying down. If you take naps, try sleeping in a chair.
- Quit smoking if you smoke.
- Lose weight if youre overweight.
- Dont overeat.
- Avoid tight clothes and tight belts.
- Avoid foods and beverages that give you heartburn.
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Common Symptoms Of Heartburn
If you’ve got a burning feeling in your chest just behind your breastbone that starts after you eat, it might be heartburn. The symptoms could last from a few minutes to several hours.
- Chest pain, especially after you bend over, lie down, or eat
- Burning at the back of your throat
- Fluid at the back of your throat that tastes hot, sour, acidic, or salty
- Long-term cough, sore throat, or hoarseness
Telling your doctor about these symptoms is usually all they need to make a diagnosis of heartburn. But they may ask you to take special tests to find out how severe the problem is or to keep an eye on your treatment.
How Do Antacids Work To Treat Heartburn
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:
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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When Do Acid Reflux Symptoms Occur
Acid reflux symptoms most often occur:
- After eating a heavy meal
- When bending over or lifting an object
- When lying down, especially on your back
People who have frequent acid reflux symptoms most often experience them at night. Nighttime GERD also produces the most pain. However, the level of pain does not always indicate the degree of damage to your esophagus.
More than half of all pregnant women experience heartburn during pregnancy. Increased hormones and pressure from a growing fetus can combine to produce this acid reflux symptom. In most cases, heartburn improves or completely goes away after delivery.
Symptoms Of Oesophageal Cancer
NHS Scotland says that the illness doesnt usually cause any symptoms in the early stages when the tumour is small.
As the tumour grows, the symptoms begin to develop.
- Bringing up food soon after eating
- Loss of appetitive and weight loss
- Pain or discomfort in your upper tummy, chest or back
Scots should seek help from a GP if they have any swallowing difficulties, heartburn on most days for three weeks or more and when they have any other unusual or persistent symptoms.
The NHS website adds: The symptoms can be caused by several conditions and in many cases wont be caused by cancer – but its a good idea to get them checked out.
If your GP thinks you need to have some test, they can refer you to a hospital specialist.
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Complications And Refractory Gerd
If left untreated, acid reflux, and more specifically GERD, can cause more severe complications down the line. WebMD lists a number of known complications such as inflammation and serious damage of the esophagus , esophageal ulcers, tooth decay, esophageal stricture or scarring of the lining of the esophagus, Barretts esophagus , and an increased risk of esophagus cancer. The experts at Cheyenne Regional add other complications to the list, such as adult onset asthma, regurgitation of acid into the lungs, and sinusitis.
A special type of complication can occur due to the treatment of GERD. One of the most common treatments for GERD is proton pump inhibitor therapy. Refractory GERD is a condition that occurs when the PPI therapy doesnt work and it causes similar, if not worse, symptoms afterward .
How Is Indigestion Treated
You should not have foods or medicines that cause indigestion. It is also helpful to avoid stressful situations. Your symptoms may feel better if you:
- Quit smoking
- Take medicines that weaken or neutralize stomach acid
Your healthcare provider may suggest you take medicines that:
- Help your stomach move food more quickly into your small intestine
- Kill bacteria if tests show you have the H. pylori bacteria in your stomach
- Help calm the gut’s nervous system
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Common Triggers For Heartburn
Some people experience heartburn regardless of what they eat. Others find they only get it after eating certain foods or meals. Common food triggers for heartburn include:
- large meals
Smoking cigarettes can also be a trigger for heartburn.
Other things that can increase the risk and the severity of heartburn include:
- being overweight or obese
- taking certain medications
- exercising too soon after eating
How To Ease Heartburn Symptoms
Many people get relief from their heartburn symptoms by making a few easy lifestyle changes. Top of the list? Stay away from trigger foods, advises Dr. Agarwal. Everyone is different, but these trigger foods typically include onions, tomatoes and tomato sauces, spicy foods, citrus fruits, red wine, chocolate, peppermint, alcohol, caffeine, carbonated drinks, and high-fat foods.
Your heartburn symptoms may also ease up if you maintain a healthy weight, give up smoking, avoid eating late at night , and keep stress under control.
If your heartburn symptoms persist, dont write them off. While taking an over-the-counter antiacid every now and then is fine, you dont want to rely on them for the rest of your life. You could be masking symptoms that indicate a more serious problem, Atif Iqbal, MD, medical director of the Digestive Care Center at MemorialCare Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA, tells Health.
Chronic heartburn can also lead to lasting damage in your esophagus. If you experience heartburn symptoms two or more times a week, talk to your doctor you may also need to consult a gastroenterologist.
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Learn How To Identify The Symptoms
Although different things may trigger heartburn, most people experience similar heartburn symptoms. Knowing what heartburn feels like and recognizing the symptoms you experience sooner can lead to earlier treatmentand relief.
The most common symptom of heartburn is often described as an uncomfortable or painful “burning” sensation in the chest.1 You may also experience pressure or pain just behind the breastbone. The pain may worsen when lying down or bending over, and it can last minutes or continue for a few hours.
Other common symptoms include the feeling that food is sticking in your chest or throat, a sour or acid taste in the back of your throat, discomfort that gets worse after eating, as well as burping and/or bloating.2
There are more uncommon heartburn symptoms you may not know: persistent hiccups, pain that radiates to your neck and shoulders, and finding it difficult or painful to swallow.2 Although rare, cold sweat, shortness of breath, light-headedness or dizziness may accompany heartburn. If these symptoms occur, you should discuss them with your doctor right away to determine the heartburn treatment options available to you, and to ensure you do not have a more serious condition.
Because heartburn symptoms are felt in a similar area, some people can confuse the pain of heartburn with a heart attack. If you’re unsure whether you’re suffering from heartburn or having a heart attack, seek medical attention right away.
A Pharmacist Can Help With Indigestion
A pharmacist can recommend medicines to ease the burning feeling or pain that can come with indigestion.
Medicines that help reduce acid in your stomach include:
- proton pump inhibitors
Some indigestion medicines are best to take after eating as their effects last longer. Check the information leaflet that comes with the medicines for more information.
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What Does Heartburn Feel Like When Pregnant
Suffering heartburn in pregnancy is common, and is the result of a whole host of changes your body is going through. Just one of these is the increase of the hormone progesterone, which causes the lower esophageal sphincter muscle to relax, sending gastric acid up the esophagus and causing the tell-tale burning sensation.3 If you havent had heartburn before, be reassured that it is common.3 To help reduce the risk of heartburn and ease symptoms, eat small meals, avoid fatty or greasy foods, and wait at least three hours after eating before lying down.3 Always talk to your doctor about the right treatment for you before using TUMS.
When In Doubt Check It Out
If youre not sure if its heartburn or your heart, seek medical attention right away. Its very easy to confuse the two issues so let a doctor rule out the most severe possibility. This is an especially important message for women.
Women are more likely to call help for someone else but not themselves, Bauman said. In fact, 81 percent of women said they would call 911 for someone else showing signs of a heart attack but only 65 percent would call for themselves, according to a special report in Circulation.
She added: I always tell people if youre concerned and not sure if its your heart, its better to err on the side of checking it out and having someone tell you its not a heart attack.
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Heartburn And Acidic Throat
As gastric acid from your stomach moves up your esophagus, it may create a burning feeling in your chest and throat. Stomach acid can also leave a nasty taste in your mouth this may be sour, salty, hot or acidic. This acid irritation can lead to a sore throat and a dry cough. It can also cause a painless lump in your throat.
Spasm Of The Esophagus
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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Resist The Urge To Overeat Or Eat Quickly
When it comes to preventing heartburn, watching portion sizes at meals can go a long way. Having a large amount of food in your stomach may put more pressure on the valve that keeps stomach acid out of your esophagus, making acid reflux and heartburn more likely. If you’re prone to heartburn, consider eating smaller meals more frequently. Eating quickly can also be a trigger of heartburn so be sure to slow down and take time to chew food and drink beverages.
When Should I Call The Doctor With Acid Reflux Symptoms
Be sure to call your doctor if you don’t get lasting relief from medications. Also call the doctor right away if you have any “alarm” acid reflux symptoms, such as these:
- Black, tarry, or maroon-colored stools
- Difficulty or pain with swallowing
Other acid reflux symptoms that should prompt a call to your doctor include:
- Asthma-like symptoms, such as wheezing or dry cough
- Hoarseness, especially in the morning
- Chronic sore throat
- Hiccups that don’t let up
- Nausea that lasts for more than a day or two
Sometimes, people confuse the symptoms of heart attack with symptoms of acid reflux disease. That’s because pain in the chest can feel like heartburn. When in doubt, call your doctor.
- Chest pain, pressure, or fullness lasting more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back
- Pain or discomfort in your neck, shoulder, upper back, or jaw
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea
- Sweating along with chest pain
American Academy of Family Physicians: “Dyspepsia: What It Is and What to Do About It.”
American Academy of Family Physicians: “Heartburn: Hints on Dealing With the Discomfort.”
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