Heartburn also referred to as acid indigestion is a feeling of discomfort characterized by painful burning of the chest or throat. This pain often rises in the chest and may radiate to the neck, throat, or angle of the jaw.

The stomach has special protective cells that line the stomach to prevent the acid from causing inflammation when it combines food, acids, and enzymes together to begin digestion. The esophagus (the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach) does not have this same protection, thus if the stomach acid and digestive juices reflux back into the esophagus, they can cause inflammation and damage to its unprotected lining, thereby leading to heartburn.

In women, heartburn is more common during pregnancy.


Causes of Heartburn

  • Excess alcohol intake.
  • Naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve).
  • Carbonated beverages.
  • Acidic juices (grapefruit, orange, pineapple).
  • Acidic foods (tomatoes, grapefruit, and oranges).
  • Smoking or passive smoke.
  • Soft drinks with high acidic pH values.
  • Chili peppers.

Symptoms/signs of Heartburn

  • Difficulty swallowing food or water.
  • Chronic cough.
  • A sour taste behind the throat.
  • Feeling of food being stuck in the throat.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Radiation to the arms or neck.
  • Stomach pain in the upper abdomen.
  • Persistent sore throat.
  • Regurgitation of foods or liquids with a taste of acid in the throat.
  • Persistent hoarseness or laryngitis.


Prevention of Heartburn

Heartburn can be reduced or prevented by a stepwise treatment program which includes;

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Avoid certain foods (maintain a healthy diet) and medications.
  • Elevate the head of the bed (or use two or three pillows) to allow gravity to keep acid in the stomach and avoid acid reflux.
  • Avoid going to bed immediately after eating.
  • Eat smaller and more frequent meals.
  • Stop smoking or avoid constant exposure to smoke.
  • Loss or maintain a healthy weight.

Diagnosis of heartburn

A thorough history and physical examination is often what is required to make the preliminary diagnosis of heartburn. The following tests may be conducted to evaluate if there is any damage as well as the severity of your heartburn:

  • Endoscopy – To do this, a flexible scope is passed down the esophagus, to examine the esophagus as well as the stomach. Biopsies can be taken if indicated. It helps to indicate any obvious damage, and also eliminate other reasons for a patient’s symptoms (foreign body, malignancy).
  • Upper GI series – You are asked to drink a liquid that coats the inside of the digestive tract, and X-rays are taken. The X-rays will show the outline of the digestive system for proper viewing.
  • Ambulatory pH testing – A small tube is connected through the nose to the stomach, to measure the acidity in the esophagus.


Treating heartburn is important because steady occurrence of reflux can damage the esophagus.

  • Antacids can help neutralize stomach acid, it also provide quick relief. But, cannot heal the esophagus damaged by stomach acid.
  • H-2-receptor antagonists (H2RAs) can help to reduce stomach acid. However, H2RAs do not act as quickly as antacids, it only provide longer relief.
  • Proton pump inhibitors, such as lansoprazole (Prevacid 24HR) and omeprazole (Prilosec OTC), can also reduce stomach acid.

Article By: eDokita Team


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