When Things Take A Turn
When your esophagus continuously falls victim to stomach acid, bear in mind that your esophagus will be experiencing damage. It can lead to inflammation and then destruction, causing you to develop GERD and dysplasiaa one-way ticket to cancer. If your heartburn wont go away and you experience one or more of the symptoms below, talk to your healthcare provider right away:
- Bitter taste: GERD is responsible for pumping food away from your stomach and back up your throat. Stomach acid is bitter in taste, and if you frequently experience this, your condition is likely worsening.
- Difficulty swallowing: Since acid has taken over your esophagus, youre likely experiencing trouble swallowing. Certain food gets stuck in your throat, which ultimately develops into a lump that prevents you from eating.
- Coughing: Stomach acid can cause you to frequently cough, as the acid that inhabits your esophagus will likely travel into your lungs as well.
- Presence of blood: GERD also causes you to vomit up blood, which can also be present in your stool. This can be much more painful than just acid, especially during sudden vomit episodes.
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
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.
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How Is It Diagnosed
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.
Heartburn Heart Attack And Gender
Not everyone experiences heart attacks the same way. The common signs of heart attack include chest pain, pressure, tightness, squeezing or burning, and it could be in the middle or to either side of the chest, says Patterson. It may or may not spread to the neck, jaw, back or arm.
Other possible symptoms of heart attack include:
- Shortness of breath
- Exercise intolerance
- Other symptoms similar to heartburn and abdominal pain
In particular, gender may have an impact on potential heart attack symptoms. Women tend to not have the typical heart attack symptoms. It can present as something that feels like heartburn, states Sauer.
It is more common for women to present with the atypical symptoms, agrees Patterson. An example would be fatigue without chest pain or shortness of breath without chest pain.
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When To Call The Doctor About Heartburn Or Reflux
If you have any of the following heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease symptoms or conditions, contact your doctor.
- Your heartburn symptoms have become more severe or frequent.
- You are having difficulty swallowing or pain when swallowing, especially with solid foods or pills.
- Your heartburn is causing you to have nausea or vomiting .
- You’ve experienced a drastic or unexplained weight loss accompanied by heartburn.
- You have a chronic cough, choking sensation or sense of a lump in your throat.
- You have been using over-the-counter antacid medications for more than two weeks , and you still have heartburn symptoms.
- You have heartburn symptoms even after taking prescription or nonprescription medications.
- You have chronic hoarseness or wheezing, or your asthma has worsened.
- Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.
- You are having chest pain accompanied by pain in the neck, jaw, arms, or legs shortness of breath, weakness, irregular pulse, or sweating.
How Do Acid Blockers Work To Treat Heartburn
Products like Pepcid AC® are called histamine H2 blockers, or acid blockers. Acid blockers reduce the production of stomach acid. They relieve heartburn, acid indigestion and sour stomach. Always follow the directions on the packaging or talk to your healthcare provider about how to take this medication. Acid blockers you can buy without a prescription include:
- Pepcid AC®.
- Tagamet HB®.
Take your acid blocker medicine regularly for as long as directed by your healthcare provider, even if you do not have any pain or if your symptoms get better.
Stronger acid blockers are prescription medications. These can be used to block stomach acid, treat stomach and duodenal ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and GERD. They work by reducing the production of stomach acid. Your healthcare provider will give you a specific prescription for this type of acid blocker.
The United States Food and Drug Administration recently reported elevated levels of a possible carcinogen, NDMA, in the drugs ranitidine and nizatidine . You should speak to your healthcare provider if you are taking one these medications.
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How To Relieve Pregnancy Heartburn
When youre experiencing heartburn, a handful of raw almonds can help you feel better, as can ginger or ginger tea. Also, try snacking on pineapple, which can act as a digestive enzyme. After dinner, we know its tempting to lie on the couch and watch Netflix, but try going on a walk to ease your heartburn. In terms of medications, its considered safe to take Tums, Gaviscon or Ranitidine , but its a good idea to talk to your health care provider before taking any medication.
Heartburn And Gerd Q& a: When It Might Be More Than Discomfort
Heartburn is a common digestive issue that millions of Americans suffer from regularly. Of those who suffer, even more have severe acid reflux or GERD . The number of sufferers and the frequency are on the rise and scientists dont know why.
Some speculate that the increase in stress, obesity and processed foods that Americans have taken on in the past couple decades might be the biggest offenders.
So when should you worry? Dr. Anezi Bakken answered some of the more common questions to try to figure out what the deal is with heartburn and what you can do about it.
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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.
- You have serious hoarseness or wheezing.
- Your discomfort interferes with your lifestyle or daily activities.
What You Need To Know About Heartburn During Pregnancy
When it comes to pregnancy, there is no shortage of symptoms and changes to expect throughout the process. However, when you know what to expect, you can prepare yourself ahead of time! One of the most common symptoms is heartburn, with more than half of pregnant women reporting experiencing it, particularly during the third trimester. Here at Memphis Obstetrics and Gynecological Association, P.C. weve put together your guide on what you need to know about heartburn during pregnancy!
Knowing what to expect and having a plan in place to combat any pesky problems can make all the difference in your pregnancy. Keep reading to learn all about pregnancy heartburn, what causes it, and how to overcome it!
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If You’ve Been Taking Medications For A Long Time
Occasional heartburn is often relieved with a simple antacid. However, if you’ve been devouring antacids for weeks and not seeing results, then see a doctor. You may require a stronger prescription medication.
Prescription medications for heartburn aren’t meant to be lifetime drugs, but many people treat them as such. Obviously, it’s difficult to stop taking something that relieves possible pain. While heartburn medications are generally safe, doctors do warn that there are some long-term side effects that are cause for concern. Because the drugs decrease your gastric acid, your body absorbs far less calcium from your diet than normal. As a result, you could be at a higher risk for experiencing a bone fracture or osteoporosis. While the benefits of staying on the drugs outweigh the risks for frequent heartburn sufferers, those who suffer from heartburn only infrequently should eventually taper off their use.
If severe heartburn occurs in a relatively young person, who faces a lifetime of taking prescription medications, doctors may consider surgery in which the upper part of the stomach is wrapped around the esophageal sphincter to strengthen it. Surgery is not recommended for everyone due to its invasive nature and due to studies that show that it might not be a permanent fix .
Tests And Surgery For Heartburn And Acid Reflux
If medicines do not help or your symptoms are severe, a GP may refer you to a specialist for:
- tests to find out what’s causing your symptoms, such as a gastroscopy
- an operation on your stomach to stop acid reflux called a laparoscopic fundoplication
Page last reviewed: 09 September 2020 Next review due: 09 September 2023
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What Kinds Of Complications Are Caused By Frequent Heartburn
- Excess stomach acid in the esophagus can cause ulcers, damage to the inner layers of the esophageal wall, and narrowing .
- Very rarely, the esophagus may bleed or tear completely because it is so damaged. In severe cases, a person may vomit blood or have small amounts of blood in bowel movements, found only on testing the stool.
- Regurgitated stomach acid can damage the respiratory tract, causing asthma, hoarseness, chronic cough, sore throat, or tooth damage . A person may feel as if he or she has a lump in the throat.
- If the acid exposure continues for long periods of time, the esophagus becomes thick and damaged. A person may then have difficulty swallowing and food becomes stuck.
What Makes It Better
For most women, things that help reduce acid production or prevent reux are helpful in avoiding the discomfort of heartburn. Here are tips that may help:
Avoid classic spicy foods, as well as those with lots of fat or grease. Many people recommend avoiding citrus and chocolate, as well.
Eat multiple, small meals spread throughout the day, much like grazing, instead of three big meals.
Try elevating the head of your bed by several inches, and wait a while after eating before going to bed or lying down.
Some women find that its better to drink fluids between meals, rather than with a meal. This can increase the amount of contents in the stomach.
If your symptoms do not improve after the above recommended diet and lifestyle changes are in place, talk with your healthcare provider about over-the-counter medicines. Antacids are available as chewable tablets and liquids. They work by coating the lining of the esophagus and stomach and neutralizing stomach acid. Heartburn medicines called H2-blockers work by reducing the amount of acid made by your stomach. Although most of these are considered safe in pregnancy, as with all medicines, these should be avoided in the first trimester.
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Should I Be Worried About Frequent Heartburn
This article was published more than 11 years ago. Some information may no longer be current.
I get heartburn frequently – at least two times a week. An antacid does the trick but should I be concerned because it’s so regular?
Heartburn is a burning sensation in the lower chest that can move up to the mouth and can be accompanied by a sour acid or bitter taste. It often is triggered by eating a big meal or lying down after a meal. Heartburn can get worse during pregnancy or with an increase or decrease in weight The discomfort can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.
Just about everyone has heartburn now and then, and occasional symptoms are not usually worrisome. Like you, most people manage the discomfort of heartburn on their own with lifestyle changes and over-the-counter medications.
To understand heartburn, it is important to first understand what happens when you eat. When food passes from your mouth, it travels down a tube called the esophagus. To enter the stomach from the esophagus, food must pass through an opening called the lower esophageal sphincter, which acts like a gate. This gate closes as soon as food passes through. If the opening doesn’t close or relaxes abnormally, acid in the stomach goes back up through the opening and up the esophagus. The acid can irritate the esophagus and cause the discomfort of heartburn.
Lifestyle changes can help keep heartburn at a minimum:
Make an appointment with your doctor if:
Complications Of Gerd And Acid Reflux
Ulcers Stomach acid in the esophagus can cause ulcers. These ulcers have the potential to bleed. To check for bleeding ulcers, your doctor may recommend a stool sample test called hemocult.
Stricture Damage caused by acid reflux can cause the esophagus to scar and narrow. This is called stricture. Over time, stricture could cause a blockage of food and require treatment. The scar tissue is a result of ulcers that occur and heal over time.
Lung and throat problems Acid reflux in the throat could lead to irritation or inflammation of the vocal cords or a sore throat. If the acid is inhaled into the lungs, it could cause aspiration pneumonia or symptoms of asthma. If the acid reflux is chronic, it could eventually cause permanent lung damage including pulmonary fibrosis or bronchiectasis.
Barrettâs esophagus Barrettâs esophagus occurs when the cells in the lower esophagus transform. The transformation is usually caused by damage to the esophageal lining, most often from chronic acid reflux or GERD. There is a small chance these cells may develop into cancer. Patients with Barretts esophagus should have an upper endoscopy done periodically to look for early signs of cancer.
Esophageal cancer Barrettâs esophagus is a major risk factor for developing esophageal cancer. The rate of esophageal cancer is on the rise, but relatively few people with GERD develop Barrettâs esophagus and even fewer people with Barrettâs esophagus develop esophageal cancer.
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When Is Heartburn Considered Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Its that familiar burning or painful sensation in the chest that pretty much everyone has experienced often enough to immediately declare it a case of heartburn. However, some people arent sure if what the heartburn they feel is normal or a more serious, common condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease .
Heres How To Control Your Symptoms
When your symptoms flare up, there are a few things you can try:
- Avoid foods that trigger your heartburn, especially in the afternoon or evening
- Elevate the head of your bed to enlist gravity to help fight regurgitation
- Take over-the-counter antacids like Tums or Rolaids, or acid suppressors such as Prilosec, Nexium, or Pepcid
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Heartburn Or Heart Attack
Symptoms of severe heartburn and those of a heart attack can often overlap, but you can usually tell you have heartburn if you experience a burning sensation in your upper abdomen and chest, accompanied by a sour taste in your mouth. The most common and similar symptom of heartburn and a heart attack is the chest pain or discomfort. Other symptoms that may be a more likely indication of heart attack are listed below:
- Cold sweat
- Sudden lightheadedness
- Pressure or pain in your chest, arms, neck, jaw or back
With heartburn, you may feel like food is coming up into your mouth. Its a different sensation than vomiting, but severe heartburn can also cause you to vomit. If youre not sure if youre experiencing heartburn or a heart attack, seek immediate medical care.
Should I Be Worried About Heartburn During Pregnancy
While heartburn isnt fun, it generally isnt a serious problem. However, pain in the abdomen or shoulder, which is sometimes mistaken for heartburn, can be a sign of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication where the woman develops high blood pressure and signs of damage to the liver or kidneys, usually after 20 weeks. If your heartburn is sudden, doesnt go away, accompanies pain in the abdomen and up the back, and is really intense with severe pain, contact your health care provider or go to the hospital for emergency assessment, says Martin.
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Will Heartburn Go Away On Its Own
For many people, occasional heartburn is common. By watching what you eat and avoiding certain triggers , you may be able to prevent heartburn or manage it. If you find that you frequently experience heartburn and that it keeps getting worse, it could be a sign of a medical condition like GERD. In these cases, your heartburn will not go away without treatment. Talk to your healthcare provider so that you can develop a treatment plan.