Heartburn symptoms usually involve a burning sensation behind the breastbone, in the chest.
Heartburn is a common and uncomfortable feeling of warmth in the chest area. Although the pain felt is located in the chest, heartburn isn’t associated with any problems in the heart. Instead, it is associated with the contents of the stomach.
However, continuous or recurrent episodes of heartburn may be a sign of a more serious condition or disorder known as gastroesophageal reflux disease also called GERD. Severe or frequent heartburns results to the disruption of activities of daily living and may lead to irritation in the esophagus, which later on may develop to ulcers.
Occasional heartburn is not very alarming and is common. Pregnant women are more likely to experience heartburn symptoms. Treatment of heartburn is available and has a good prognosis as long as proper understanding of the disorder exists. It may involve the use of over-the-counter medications and certain lifestyle changes.
Heartburn Symptoms Causes
The esophagus has a band of muscle at its end to close off the opening from the esophagus to the stomach. The band of muscle is known as the lower esophageal sphincter. In some cases, the band may weaken and may not close tight enough. This results to the reflux of stomach contents back into the esophagus. The acid in the stomach is very strong that it can damage tissues. This causes irritation of the esophagus and eventually, heartburn symptoms.
There are various causes for the weakening or not closing of the lower esophageal sphincter. Certain factors include drinks and foods that may loosen the LES such as: alcohol, fatty foods, caffeine-rich beverages, peppermint, and chocolate. The body’s position also plays a part in the occurrence of heartburn, positions such as bending over or laying down increases the risk of the stomach contents to flow back up into the esophagus. Heartburn may also be caused by high pressure that occurs in the stomach, which the forces the contents of the stomach into the esophagus. Pressure in the stomach is usually a result of pregnancy, obesity, tight clothing, coughing, straining, and lifting.
Certain medical disorders and conditions may also increase the risk of developing heartburn symptoms. These conditions include autoimmune disease such as: scleroderma, Raynaud phenomenon, and CREST syndrome. Other conditions are diabetes and hiatal hernia. Medications such as: theophylline or asthma drug, and heart and blood pressure medications may also weaken the lower esophageal sphincter.
A variety of substances may also directly irritate the esophagus’s lining, which contributes to heartburn. These includes: osteoporosis medications, ibuprofen, aspirin, cigarette smoke, tomato sauce, citrus juices and fruits, and spicy foods.
The most common symptoms of heartburn involve a burning sensation in the chest area. Heartburn symptoms usually occur 30-60 minutes after meals. The pain is or may become worse when straining, bending forward, or lying down and is often relived by taking antacids, drinking water, swallowing saliva, or sitting upright. The sensation or pain may radiate to the back, arms, jaw, or throat, which often results of heartburn to be mistaken for a heart attack. However, whatever the reason is, any type of chest pain should require immediate medical attention, to rule out serious medical conditions.
Other symptoms of heartburn might include regurgitation. Regurgitation occurs when contents from the stomachs backs up into the esophagus and small amounts reaches into the mouth, which may taste sour or bitter. This usually occurs when straining, bending over, or lying down after meals. In some cases, the respiratory tract may also be affected causing sore throat, chronic cough, hoarseness, or asthma. When the esophagus has been damaged, the individual may also have difficulty swallowing. In severe cases, dehydration and weight loss may occur. The esophagus may even tear and bleed.
Heartburn Symptoms Treatment
Prompt treatment for heartburn symptoms is very important. This is to avoid the lining of the esophagus to be damaged and results to serious complications. Certain heartburn remedies which include changing habits may help treat and prevent heartburn. This involves avoiding drinks and foods that may trigger reflux of stomach contents. These includes: tomato sauces, tomatoes, fatty foods, spicy foods, spearmint and peppermint, citrus juices and fruits, chocolate, carbonated drinks, caffeine, and alcohol.
Changing the patient’s eating habits also helps in preventing the occurrence of the condition. To prevent heartburn, it is important to avoid exercising, bending over, straining, or lying down after a meal. It is also recommended to avoid meals at least three to four house before bedtime. Patients who frequently experience heartburn are also recommended to eat frequent small meals per day.
Other lifestyle changes for the treatment of heartburn symptoms may include losing weight, sleeping with the head raised, stop smoking, and reducing stress through relaxation techniques. If none of the mentioned remedies are effective, using over-the-counter medications such as: antacids, H2 blockers, and proton pump inhibitors may be effective.